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Public Opinion Being Mobilized on Behalf of Shcharansky; Massive Rally Scheduled in New York on Mond

July 10, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Public opinion was being mobilized today in the United States, Israel and Western Europe on behalf of Soviet Jewish activist Anatoly Shcharansky, who is scheduled to go on trial in Moscow tomorrow for treason.

Secretary of State Cyrus Vance yesterday strongly condemned the planned trial of Shcharansky and other Soviet dissidents and Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan has instructed all Israeli ambassadors to alert the countries to which they are assigned to the importance of the Moscow trial as a violation of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the Helsinki Accords. Shcharansky’s wife, Avital, arrived in Paris today after receiving assurances from both Premier Menachem Begin and Dayan that they would do their utmost to arouse world public opinion.

Here in New York a massive rally has been scheduled by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry for 12:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Garment Center.

At the same time in Washington, Dina Kaminskaya, the Moscow lawyer who Shcharansky’s family selected to defend him and them was pressured to leave the Soviet Union in November, 1977, will try to go into the Soviet Embassy and get a visa to return to Moscow to defend her client, the Union of Councils of Soviet Jews announced.

Mrs. Shcharansky is scheduled to lead a march through Paris streets Tuesday night. About 100 people, including several members of the French Communist Party, held a demonstration today in support of Shcharansky in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In London a mass demonstration was also scheduled today for Hyde Park.

Labor MP Greville Janner, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, has been urging the British government to denounce the trials of dissidents as a mockery of justice and a blow against detente. No government statement has been issued although Britain has asked for permission for an official observer to sit in at the trial.


Shcharansky, a 30-year-old computer and chess expert, has been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison since March 15, 1977. It was learned that the trial will be closed to Western journalists, but they will be briefed twice daily by official Soviet news agencies. Previous trials of dissidents and Jewish activists have also been closed and the Western journalists received their reports only from the defendent’s families and friends.

At the same time Shcharansky is scheduled to go on trial, Alexander Ginzberg, another prominent dissident, is due to appear in court in Kaluga, 100 miles south of Moscow, on the charge of anti-Soviet propaganda and agitations. Both men are members of the group of Soviet dissidents that have been monitoring Moscow’s compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Accords.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Slepak, the Jewish activist who is also a member of the monitoring committee, is expected to have a hearing tomorrow for his appeal on his sentence of five years of internal exile for “malicious hooliganism.” His wife, Maria, who was also charged with hooliganism, is free pending a trial.


Vance, who called in reporters to the State Department yesterday to issue his denunciation, said that while he would still meet with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in Geneva Wednesday and Thursday for strategic arms limitations talks (SALT), he has at President Carter’s direction cancelled two official U.S. trips to the Soviet Union. One is by a group led by Barbara Blum, deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the other delegation headed by Frank Press, the President’s science advisor.

In his statement Vance said that the Soviet dissidents “are being put on trial on a number of pretexts. In truth, they are being tried for asserting fundamental human rights–to speak out and to petition and criticize their government–rights guaranteed in international agreements entered into by their government.”

Vance stressed that he reflects “the deepest feelings and values of the American people when I deplore these events. They inevitably affect the climate of our relations and impose obstacles to the building of confidence and cooperation between our countries.”

Vance’s statement came only a day after the State Department had issued a waming to the USSR that it was concerned about he upcoming trials of Shcharansky and Ginzberg and their fate “will be an important indicator of the attitude of the Soviet government” both as to the Helsinki Accords and to U.S.-Soviet relations.

Begin issued a statement declaring that “the entire enlightened humanity knows that Shcharansky is innocent. His only wish was to immigrate to Israel.” He called on” all men of good will” to come to Shcharansky’s aid. Dayan told Mrs. Shcharansky by phone today that the government would do its utmost to arouse world opinion. The Knesset is scheduled to debate the subject tomorrow. Labor Alignment leader Shimon Peres was expected to raise the issue at the Socialist International meeting in Vienna.


Immediately after the news of the Shcharansky trial was announced, Jerry Goodman, executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, demanded that Congress and efforts to grant additional trade credits to the Soviet Union, including agricultural commodity credits. He also urged that “should the human rights aspects of the Helsinki Final Act be ignored, we can do no less than urge a waiver of these provisions in the accord which speak of economic relations between our two countries.”

Other Jewish organizations, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Council of Jewish Federations, B’nai B’rith, Hadassah, and the International League for the Repatriation of Russian Jews, have also urged U.S. action in behalf of the Soviet dissidents.

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