A group of Soviet Jews denied permission to emigrate demonstrated on a busy street for 90 minutes Monday without police interference to demand the release of Hebrew teacher Josef Begun, who was sentenced to 12 years of prison and exile in 1983.
"I learned that the government released 40 or more political prisoners, but not my husband," Inna Begun told reporters as she stood with six friends and family members on the crowded Old Arbat pedestrian mall.
Militiamen stood nearby but made no attempt to break up the demonstration or disperse the crowd of onlookers, who numbered as many as 200 at times.
In the past, most attempts by refuseniks--those denied permission to emigrate--to bring their cause before the public have been met with swift arrest.
The demonstrators, wearing placards reading "Free Josef Begun. Let Us Go to Israel," drew jeers as well as support from passers-by. Some signed their names to the placards in a show of sympathy.
"Gorbachev has promised to resolve these problems," one onlooker said in encouragement, referring to Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
The majority of those who stopped to watch the seven demonstrators just stared, some shaking their heads in disapproval.