WASHINGTON (Feb. 11)
The Reagan Administration urged the Soviet Union Tuesday to release longtime Jewish refusenik Iosif Begun from prison without him having to sign a statement agreeing not to continue teaching Hebrew.
“We are disturbed at the news that imprisoned Hebrew teacher Iosif Begun is not being released because he has refused to sign such a statement,” State Department spokesman Charles Redman said.
“We call upon the Soviet government to release Iosif Begun and all other Prisoners of Conscience” and allow them “to resume the legitimate activities for which they were unjustly prosecuted,” Redman added.
His statement was made as he expressed the Administration’s “Welcome” of the announcement that the Soviet government is releasing 140 political prisoners. But he noted that this was only 20 percent of the 750 political prisoners being held in the USSR.
Repeating a statement he made on Monday, Redman declared, “We hope that the Soviet government will now move to free all remaining political prisoners without requiring them to sign statements recanting their previous activities or agreeing to limit their future activities on behalf of human rights.”
Begun, who has been seeking to emigrate to Israel since 1971, is in the Chistopol prison since being sentenced in 1983 to seven years in a labor camp and five years internal exile for “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” for teaching Hebrew.
In a telephone conversation from Moscow to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry which was meeting on Capitol Hill last Thursday, Begun’s wife, Inna said she did not believe her husband would be released because he would never sign the statement.
“I am very afraid for my husband’s life,” she said, since she believed he was continuing a hunger strike started three months ago. Inna Begun and Iosif Begun’s son, Boris, joined by other refuseniks, have begun picketing in Moscow on Begun’s behalf.
INNA MEIMAN’S DEATH MOURNED
Meanwhile, Redman expressed the State Department’s regret at the death of Inna Meiman, 54, who died Monday at Georgetown University Hospital where she had been treated for cancer since coming here from Moscow last month. She was the wife of Naum Meiman, a founding member of the Helsinki Watch Committee in Moscow who had been refused permission to accompany his wife to Washington.
“Her passing is mourned by many Department employes who came to know her through her valiant struggle against the ultimately incurable illness that gripped her body and through her equally courageous effort on behalf of human rights in the USSR,” Redman said.
He called on the USSR to allow her husband to attend her funeral and “to rejoin his only daughter (Olga Plum) who has long lived in the United States (in Boulder, Colo.) and is an American citizen.” Redman also urged that Meiman’s son and his family also be allowed to come to the U.S.