EIGHTY NINE JEWISH activists in the Soviet Union, together with Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, have appealed to ‘the two American presidential candidates, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, to defend human rights in the Soviet Union. The Jews pointed out that the Kremlin had not lived up to its promises given at the time of the signing of the Helsinki accord.
They want one of the two (or even both) to take up the issue in a big way. While both men have been making strong commitments to the American concept of freedom and democracy, it is Carter who appears the most -likely to latch on to this particular aspect as Ford has done relatively little during his period of office.
What the Soviet activists are hoping, in fact, is that if a sufficiently kind noise is made during the presidential campaign, more Jews might be allowed to leave and that they might include some of the more prominent figures.
Sakharov linked the issue of civil rights with that of international security and reiterated his concern for the thousands of prisoners of conscience held in labour camps and prisons in the USSR. He has estimated the total Soviet prison population as being well over a million This is also the opinion of Dr. Peter Reddaway, of the London School of Economics.
It is not known, how many of these are political prisoners but Soviet sources have indicated that about one per cent of all prisoners were convicted for political crimes. On this basis, there are 10,000 political and religious prisoners in the USSR today.
The Jewish prisoners are Incarcerated mainly in the strict regime camps at Perm and Potma. Despite further protests on their there is no improvement in their condition. For months, friends in the USSR. have been trying to supply Yaakov Suslensky, in Vladimir prison, with medicine for a heart complaint but the administration blocked all attempts. Recently Suslensky suffered a cerebral stroke. Now his family and friends are pressing for his release, fearing that if he is forced to serve his remaining year, he will not leave the prison alive.
Suslensky was sentenced to seven years in October 1970 in the Moldavian town of Bendery. Among his “crimes” was a request for Hebrew classes to be started in the town.
Iosif Zalmanson was recently, denied permission to visit his son Israel in Potma. Israel has now been deprived of his right to use the camp canteen for the next three months. He was sentenced in December 1970 to eight years for his part in the attempt to hijack a twelve-seater aircraft at Smolny Airport, Leningrad.
Another example of Soviet failure to adhere to the principles of Helsinki concerns Alexander Silnitsky, who is serving a two-year sentence. He applied to emigrate to Israel and was then called to the Russian Army. He refused to be conscripted and is now working on a building site.
Jewish Observer 24 September 1976