NEW YORK (Jul. 19)
A federal prosecutor in New York on Tuesday prevented Avital Sharansky from testifying as a character witness on behalf of attorney E. Robert Wallach, who is facing racketeering charges in the Wedtech trial.
Prosecutor Baruch Weiss blocked Sharansky’s testimony that Wallach, a personal friend of former Attorney General Edwin Meese, was instrumental in obtaining the 1986 release of her husband, Natan, from a Soviet prison. Weiss argued that retelling her husband’s story would sway the jury.
His argument provoked heated debate in the courtroom. Sharansky told Judge Richard Owen, while the jury was out of the courtroom, that Wallach had ceaselessly lobbied government officials on her husband’s behalf.
She said she approached Wallach in 1982, that she was able to contact him at any hour and that he was always willing to help. She said Wallach asked for help from Meese and former National Security Adviser Robert MacFarlane.
Natan Sharansky, who then went by the name Anatoly, was freed in February 1986 after nine years’ imprisonment, following an international campaign led by his wife.
Owen had said he would decide Wednesday morning if Avital Sharansky could testify, but the couple flew home Tuesday night, less than 24 hours after they arrived.
Avital Sharansky said she was worried about her mother, who is dying. Svetlana Stiglits suffered a broken hip, heart attacks and a stroke in Moscow. She was airlifted from Moscow in May, in an international humanitarian gesture.
Wallach is on trial with two former Wedtech executives on charges of illegally diverting $525,000 from the military contractor, which is located in the South Bronx.
Several government officials, principally in New York, have been sent to prison as a result of their involvement with obtaining government contracts for Wedtech.