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Mondale Meets with Mrs, Shcharansky; Praises Her for Courage, Dignity

July 18, 1978
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Vice President Walter Mondale met with Mrs. Avital Shcharansky for nearly a half-hour at the White House today. Addressing reporters before they adjourned for their private conversation, Mondale praised the wife of Soviet Jewish dissident Anatoly Shcharansky for her “courage, dignity and strength” and said he hoped and prayed “you will see a good resolution to all this.”

Mondale lauded Shcharansky’s final statement to the Moscow court that sentenced him Friday to three years in jail and 10 years in a “strict regime” labor camp. “It will go down in literature as a great statement by an oppressed person,” he said. Mrs. Shcharansky, who lives in Israel, was accompanied to the White House by the Charge d’Affaires of the Israeli Embassy, Hanan Baman. Mondale, who had promised Mrs. Shcharansky publicly last winter that the U.S. will do everything to free her husband, said that “In these awful days” which she is experiencing, “I know that I speak for all Americans when I speak of the dignity and strength you have shown in all the injustices visited upon you and your husband and others.” Mrs. Shcharansky would not speak to reporters as she left the White House.

The International Committee for the Release of Anatoly Shcharansky, warmly welcomed Mrs. Shcharansky this afternoon and urged the U.S. to take stern measures to free her husband and others recently imprisoned and to “reverse” the Soviet Union’s “repressive policies.”

In a crowded hearing room of the Rayburn Office Building, members of both parties in the House expressed their “abhorrence” of the Soviet proceedings against dissidents and called for a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, reduction of U.S. trade with the Soviet Union, suspension of scientific and technological exchanges and international investigations of the prison conditions of dissidents.


Mrs. Shcharansky, speaking in Russian, declared, “In your hands is the fate of the Jewish movement in the Soviet Union and the fate of my husband.” She added: “The Soviet Union is destroying the Jewish movement and the dissidents. Now is the time to act. The Soviet Union probably does not understand words. The rest of the world is watching us. It depends on us whether humanism will exist in this world or disappear.” Referring to the anti-Semitism and repression of the Stalin era, Mrs. Shcharansky warned: “Unless all those oppressed in the Soviet Union get help, the same catastrophe that happened 40 years ago will be repeated.”

Mrs. Shcharansky met later today with the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors compliance with the Helsinki Final Act. Tonight she will meet the wives of U.S. Senators at a reception at the Israel Embassy given by Mrs. Simcha Dinitz, wife of the Israeli Ambassador.

In other developments today, it was learned from Moscow that a court will hear the appeal tomorrow of dissident Yuri Orlov who was sentenced in May to 12 years at hard labor and internal exile. Reports from Moscow today also said that Ukrainian human rights activist Lev Lukyanenko is believed to have gone on trial in Gorodnya where witnesses have bean summoned to testify.

Lukyanenko, 50, a lawyer by profession who has been working as an electrician, previously served a 15-year sentence for anti-State activities. He was re-arrested last December and charged with anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda, offenses that carry a maximum penalty of 15 years at a labor comp and internal exile. Lukyanenko was a founder of a local branch of the group monitoring Soviet compliance with the human rights clauses of the Helsinki Final Act.


Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, the World Zionist Executive announced today that the Brussels Conference on Soviet Jewry will convene in the near future to discuss measures in light of the dissident trials in the Soviet Union. WZO chairman Loon Dulzin said the trial of Shcharansky underlined the Soviet intention to present Jewish aliya activists as criminals. He said the WZO planned to distribute world-wide copies of Shcharansky’s final statement to the Moscow court. He said the Soviet persecution of Zionist activities would be the focus of attention at all WZO educational centers.

Pope Paul VI spoke out yesterday for the first time against the dissident trials. Addressing 3000 visitors at his summer retreat at Castle Gandolfo, he called the alleged crimes of the dissidents “ideological infractions” and said the sentences were disproportionately severe. The Pope did not mention the convicted dissidents by name but was referring to Anatoly Shcharansky, Viktoras Petkus and Alexander Ginzburg.

In New York, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a joint statement commending President Carter “for his strong outspoken support” of Shcharansky and other persecuted Soviet citizens. It called on the Administration “to seek an immediate freeze of the export of American technology to the USSR” and urged “a broad review of existing technological agreements with the Soviet Union.”

The statement, released at an emergency meeting of the two organizations, called upon “the American Jewish community and its friends and supporters to participate in nationwide demonstrations on July 26 to protest Soviet repression of Jewish emigration activists and those seeking basic human rights. We urge simultaneous hunger strikes across the country on that day to give personal testimony in solidarity with the agony of Anatoly Shcharansky.”

In a similar vein, the American Zionist Federation called upon Carter to cancel all export deals with the USSR. “The United States should not ease the Soviet economic burden through increased trade at this time, and must certainly abandon current consideration of Soviet agricultural credits,” Rabbi Israel Miller, AZF president, stated. “Now is the time for our country to stand in firmness, dignity and pride, placing moral principles before economic interests.”

In Sao Paulo last Friday, Cardinal Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns spoke at a solidarity rally in support of Shcharansky and Ginzburg. He denounced the Soviet authorities for the arbitrary and unjust sentences imposed on the two men. A telegram of protest was sent to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev on behalf of Catholics, Protestants and Jews of Brazil. In Montreal, the Canadian Labor Congress sent a telegram to the All Soviet Trade Union Central Committee in Moscow protesting the trials.

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