Group Reports Hardships for Soviet Jewish Prisoners
LONDON (AP) _ An independent watchdog agency said Tuesday it had new reports of Jewish political prisoners being severely ill-treated in the Soviet Union and that police resentment over the release of Anatoly Shcharansky might be the cause.
″We think that the KGB (Soviet secret police) may be lashing out because of their anger over Shcharansky,″ said Joyce Simson, spokeswoman for the London-based Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry.
Shcharansky, who campaigned in the Soviet Union for free Jewish emigration and other human rights, was released in a prisoner exchange on Feb. 11 after spending nine years in jail on charges of espionage, which he denied. Western nations had been pressing for his release for years.
The women’s association publicizes reported cases of Soviet Jews persecuted for applying to emigrate to Israel. The group gets its information from travelers, letters and telephone calls to relatives and friends.
Simson said that in the latest known case, a Hebrew teacher named Yuli Edelshtein had both legs broken during interrogation in a penal settlement at Vydrino in the Buryatskaya autonomous republic.
″We have no idea why it was done. He is now in the prison hospital,″ Simson said.
She said Edelshtein was beaten several times in prison. He was jailed for three years in December 1984 for illegal possession of drugs that he claimed were planted on him. No drugs were produced at his trial.
Edelshtein’s wife was expelled from Moscow before the Feb. 25 opening of the 27th Communist Party Congress and is now living in Kiev. They have an 11- year-old daughter.
Simson said her group also heard that a Hebrew teacher named Vladimir Lifshitz, who was reportedly arrested for protesting about the non-delivery of mail from the West, was beaten on the back of the head while awaiting trial in Leningrad’s Kresty prison.
He spent 10 days in the prison hospital with severe concussion.
″We have not heard before of a prisoner being beaten before trial,″ Simson said. ″And his son was not allowed to continue at university.″
In a third reported case, the campaign said that Zachar Zunshain from Riga, who was halfway through a three-year sentence in the Irkutsk region on a charge of anti-Soviet activity, had been sexually assaulted and then became ill with viral hepatitis after being injected with a dirty needle.
″His wife has not seen him for 18 months,″ she said.
″None of these prisoners broke the law - they were all arrested on trumped-up charges,″ the spokeswoman added.