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Shcharansky Says He Would Be Glad if Mandela Could Be Released from Jail

February 14, 1986
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Anatoly Shcharansky said today he would be glad if Black South African leader Nelson Mandela could be released from prison as part of the East-West package deal responsible for his own release by the Soviet Union. But the dissident and aliya activist carefully distinguished his own movement from that of Mandela who he noted has been accused of violence in his struggle against apartheid.

Appearing at a press conference here, Shcharansky stressed that he and other Jewish activists in the USSR were never violent. “Our only battlefields were small apartments” from which world public opinion was alerted to the plight of Soviet Jewry, he said.

He said he believed in principle that all political prisoners should be freed. But he did not want Moscow to mislead the world by comparing his case and Mandela’s, trying to imply thereby that he and his Helsinki Watch group were in anyway involved in violent activities such as the anti-apartheid activist has been charged with.

Proposals were made to the South African regime two years ago that Mandela be released from prison in return for the release of Shcharansky. The South Africans rejected this out of hand. But when Shcharansky’s release appeared imminent, South African Prime Minister P.W. Botha said he would free Mandela if Shcharansky and South Africans imprisoned in neighboring Angola also were released.

Rumors have persisted that Mandela soon would be freed. Israel Radio said Tuesday that Mandela would be released, possibly the following day, as part of the prisoner exchange that brought Shcharansky to Israel. According to the Israel Radio report, Premier Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir recently exchanged notes with Botha on the inclusion of Mandela in the exchange.

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