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Dissident’s U.S. Relatives Among 12 Arrested

February 17, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ Relatives of imprisoned dissident Josef Begun were among 12 people arrested at a demonstration near the Soviet Mission to the United Nations after pleading for information about his health and whereabouts.

A simultaneous demonstration for the Soviet Hebrew teacher was held at the Soviet consulate in San Francisco, said organizer Ken Kelner of the Zionist Organization of America.

In New York, Begun’s cousin Zelda Tepper and her husband, Chaim, were arrested Monday and charged with disorderly conduct after crossing police barricades.

The demonstrations came a day after a high-ranking Soviet official announced on U.S. television that Begun had been released.

But Begun’s wife, Inna, told the Teppers early Monday that he remained in custody at Chistopol Prison 500 miles east of Moscow, and that officials said he would not be released.

During a news conference before the demonstration, Tepper said Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ″should step forward and straighten this out.″

″We don’t want to create animosity but let’s not get people’s hopes high and then drop them,″ he said.

Begun’s weight has dropped from 176 pounds to 119 in past months, the result of a hunger strike, Mrs. Tepper said.

″We’re wondering about his health, and if he’s even alive,″ Tepper said.

After speaking with reporters, Mrs. Tepper, carrying a framed photograph of Begun, led about 20 demonstrators including her husband away from a main group of about 100.

Mrs. Tepper was lead away by several officers after about a minute. She yelled ″Where is Josef Begun? Is he still alive? Why don’t we know?″

Among those arrested were other cousins of Begun, including Rabbi Chaim Wasserman of Passaic, N.J., and Rose Backman, Mrs. Tepper’s mother. Mrs. Backman and the Teppers live in Far Rockaway.

Those arrested were to be issued summons for disorderly conduct and blocking a roadway, said Deputy Inspector John Hartigan. They are to appear in court March 30.

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