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Outraged Protests in Europe

July 12, 1978
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In major Western capitals from Rome to Amsterdam, citizen groups, public officials, political leaders, diplomats and most of the news media joined in the rising tide of outraged protest against the trials of Soviet Jewish dissidents Anatoly Shcharansky and Alexander Ginzberg which opened yesterday in Moscow and Kaluga.

French public opinion has come to view the Shcharansky trial as a modern version of the Dreyfus affair. Government spokesmen and political parties, including the Communists, and the press, openly refer to the trial as a major miscarriage of justice with serious political implications.

The Communist Party daily, L’Humanite, disclosed yesterday that the party’s Central Committee had asked the Soviet authorities to free Shcharansky and Ginzberg at once. The request, presented to the Soviet Embassy in Paris, is one of the rare occasions in which the French Communist Party, one of the strongest in the West, openly intervened in an internal Soviet matter.

The Foreign Ministry expressed its “serious concern” over the trials. Francois Mitterand, leader of the opposition Socialist Party, called on President Valery Giscard d’Estaing to intervene personally on behalf of the accused. Some 5000 people, including an official delegation of the Communist Party and the Communist-dominated CGT trade union, marched through the center of Paris tonight on behalf of Shcharansky and Ginzberg.

Among the Communist representatives were several members of Parliament, including Jean Ducollonne, president of the party’s parliamentary group. Rene Andrieux, a member of the party’s central committee and editor of L’Humanite, said this evening in an interview on the state radio: “We (the French Communists) are fighting for human rights wherever they are downtrodden. We think this is the case with the two trials now taking place in the Soviet Union.”


In London, Prime Minister James Callaghan said the trials “bear some of the hallmarks of the trials we knew in Stalin’s day.” He told Parliament they would place “a very severe test on relations between the Soviet Union and other countries.” Foreign Secretary Dr. David Owen, said the trials were “in direct contravention of the spirit and intention” of the Helsinki Final Act.

In Brussels, the Belgian Parliament adopted a motion calling on the Soviet government to free Shcharansky and Ginzberg or grant them a fair trial as prescribed by international law. The secretary general of the International Confederation of Trade Unions, Otto Kersten, made a similar plea on behalf of the Confederation’s 55 million members.

The Foreign Ministry said that Belgian Foreign Minister Henri Simonet was “outraged” by the trials and instructed Belgian officials to make this view known in no uncertain terms to the Soviet authorities.

The Italian Jewish community asked political and diplomatic representatives in Rome today to associate themselves with a vigil of protest tonight against the trials. A statement issued in connection with the vigil said Italian Jews were “seriously worried by the procedure at the two trials.”

The Federation of Swiss Jewish Communities published a declaration in Geneva protesting anti-Semitism and racism in the Soviet Union as manifested by the trials of Shcharansky and Ginzberg.

Two protest demonstrations against the trials were held in Holland. Members of the Solidarity Committee With Soviet Jewry assembled outside the Soviet Embassy in The Hague, joined by the Dutch branch of the International Committee for Support for Alexander Ginzberg.

In Amsterdam, delegates to the 20th conference of the Hollandse Schouwburg Memorial declared solidarity with Shcharansky and Ginzberg. The memorial is named for the central staging area where Dutch Jews were gathered for deportation to Nazi concentration camps during World War II. In Vienna, the Austrian Socialist Party asked Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev to halt the trials. The Austrian section of Amnesty International and the Organization of Jewish Youth in Austria also issued protests against the trials.

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