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Former KGB officer who aided dissidents immigrates to U.S.

MOSCOW, April 14 (JTA) — A former captain in the KGB who attempted to help Soviet dissidents in their struggle for freedom has emigrated from Russia after he was unable to clear his name. Victor Orekhov emigrated last week from Russia to the United States after fighting unsuccessfully for years to be rehabilitated by the post- Soviet justice system. Orekhov was sentenced nearly 20 years ago to eight years in prison for tipping off Soviet dissidents to secret police plans to search or arrest them. Orekhov’s case has drawn widespread attention from human-rights activists and dissidents. Among those whom Orekhov attempted to help in the mid-1970s were Jewish dissidents Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky and Alexander Ginzburg, as well as Andrei Sakharov and members of the human-rights Moscow Helsinki Group. Both Orekhov and Sharansky, who now serves as Israel’s trade and industry minister, were freed from the Soviet gulag system in 1986. At a news conference last month, Orekhov said that his latest effort to win rehabilitation was rejected by top military court officials, who maintained that Orekhov was tried and sentenced correctly for disclosing state secrets. The former KGB officer had argued that his name should be cleared because his former agency’s activities are now widely considered illegal. Russia’s refusal to rehabilitate him left Orekhov with an official criminal record that prevented him from getting many jobs. Russia’s leading human-rights activist, Sergei Kovalyov, who himself is a former Soviet dissident, has voiced his support for Orekhov. “If a crime is committed to prevent an even bigger crime, it shouldn’t be tried,” said Kovalyov. A reporter for Russian television who interviewed Orekhov at the Moscow airport shortly before he left Russia last week, said it was ironic that a man who had struggled along with Jewish and other dissidents for freedom of emigration has now been forced to leave the country.