Testimony on behalf of Soviet Jewish emigration activist Anatoly Sharansky, presently being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, and under investigation by Soviet authorities on a treason charge, has been brought out to this country to be read at an investigatory commission scheduled for mid-September in Washington, it was reported by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ).
The commission will listen to witnesses and evidentiary material at a public hearing in the nation’s capital. Prof. Alan Dershowitz of Harvard University and Jack Greenberg, director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, have agreed to serve as co-counsel for the hearings, the NCSJ said.
The documents from the USSR consist of a series of depositions citing the “absurdity” of the charges against Sharansky and his actual activities. They were obtained by the NCSJ for the fall commission. All those signing the documents have previously applied to emigrate to Israel and have been consistently denied.
SHARANSKY’S ACTIVITIES WERE LEGAL
“Because of his excellent knowledge of English, and his grasp of Soviet law, Sharansky often gave lectures, translated and interpreted for foreign journalists, visiting politicians and friends,” wrote Dr. Alexander Lerner.
Lerner, a resident of Moscow who first applied to leave in 1971 said that Sharansky’s activities were both “open and legal. He was never involved in secret work or had any of the information which he is accused of passing on to foreign correspondents. Such conversations were always and solely connected with emigration matters. It has to be pointed out that our struggle for the right to emigrate has nothing in common with anti-Soviet activities and is not aimed at damaging the Soviet system.”
A group of Jewish activists in Minsk, all of them refusniks, expressed fears in their deposition that Sharansky, a 29-year-old computer specialist, may not get an open and fair trial, should the Soviets decide to prosecute. According to former Soviet Col. Lev Ovsishcher, one of the Minsk group signing the document, “we have no doubt that his innocence could be proven in any open court. Our concern is that the possibility exists that any such trial may not take place.”
ANTI-SEMITIC UPSURGES FEARED
“In Jewish history,” the group continued, “there are other examples of such trials; the Dreyfuss case in France, the Beilis case in Czarist Russia, the ‘Doctors’ Plot’ in the Soviet Union. In all these cases the truth finally triumphed. The innocence of the accused was fully proved and all that remained in history was a nasty trace. But in each of those examples, the very fact that the trial was held provoked an upsurge of anti-Semitism. We feel that if Sharansky was tried on a charge of betraying country and spying for a foreign power, there is the possibility that a similar wave could be produced today. . . “
Other refusnik-activists sending testimony included Alexander Slepak, Dina Beilina, Arkady May, Felix Kamov-Kandel and Zakhar Tesker. Sharansky was arrested in Moscow March 15 after the Soviet government newspaper Izvestia had accused him and several other Jewish activists of working for the CIA along with some American diplomats and journalists in Moscow.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.