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Brezhnev Rejects Appeal for Jews

June 2, 1980
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev has rejected an appeal for clemency by two Jews sentenced to death in August 1978 for “economic crimes, “following a year-long trial in the town of Donetsk in the Ukraine, according to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (NCSJ).

Raphael Adzhiashvill, 49, from Tblisi, married with three children, and a man named Abasov from Baku, went on trial with 52 co-defendants for allegedly stealing factory surplus textile for resale. All but eight of the defendants were Jewish. Although the prosecutor asked for sentences of 10-15 years for all of the defendants, four Jews received death sentences. After appealing to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, two of the four condemned Jews–Gabriel Seplashvill and Ilya Mikholshvill–had their sentences commuted to 15 years in jail. Seplahvill’s clemency, decreed by the First Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Vasily V. Koznetsov, was received a few days ago, before he was transferred from his death cell to a regular prison cell.

Alerted to the fact that the Supreme Soviet had denied Adzhiashvill’s appeal for clemency, his family immediately left for Moscow for an eleventh hour attempt to save the life of the condemned prisoner.

According to Marvin Frankel, chairman of NCSJ’s National Lawyers Committee, “The affirmed death sentences apparently indicate that the specter of anti-Semitism is on the rise. While the non-Jews were sentenced to lesser punishment, the Jews were obviously singled out, in a barbaric turn from justice.”

Reacting to the blatantly harsh sentences, the NCSJ has called upon members of Congress and the State Department to make inquiries with the USSR.

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