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Sentenced Leningrad Jewish Leader Rejected Espionage Charges in Court

November 29, 1961
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Gedalia Pechersky, the Leningrad lay Jewish religious leader who was sentenced last month to 12 years’ imprisonment, rejected charges of espionage and insisted he was a loyal citizen during his trial, according to reliable detailed information reaching here today.

Mr. Pechersky was shown photographs at the trial in which he was pictured conversing with members of the Israel Embassy. Testifying in his own defense, he said that the photographs were taken at a formal reception which he attended in his capacity as Jewish community representative with knowledge of Soviet authorities. He insisted he was a loyal citizen and that he had not violated any law.

The prosecutor then asked him if he was a Zionist. To this he replied that he did not belong to any party or organization but that as an Orthodox Jew it was mandatory for him, in accordance with Jewish custom throughout many generations, to pray three times daily for the restoration of Zion.

The trial, which lasted three days and took place in mid-October, was not in secret, as was originally reported, but attendance at the hearings was restricted. Sentenced with Mr. Pechersky, 60, were two other lay leaders, N.A. Kaganov, and E.S. Dynkin, who received lighter terms because of their advanced ages. The trials and sentences have aroused worldwide protests. The three leaders were arrested on charges of “consorting with foreign agents” and other alleged treasonable activities.

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