Soviets Halt Protest Seeking Freedom for Jewish Dissident

Associated Press

Plainclothesmen pushed protesters out of a shopping mall Wednesday, the third day of demonstrations for release of a Jewish activist not included in the Kremlin pardon that freed 140 other imprisoned dissidents.

The Jewish protesters also demonstrated for the right to emigrate. They carried placards reading, "Let Us Go to Israel" and "Free Josef Begun," who was given a seven-year prison term in October, 1983.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov said at a news briefing Tuesday that 140 dissidents had been released and that a like number of other cases are being examined. His announcement has not been reported to the Soviet public.

Gerasimov also said government commissions were reviewing the criminal code, but he gave no details.

About 20 Soviet Jews who have been refused emigration visas gathered Wednesday morning for their third day of protest in the Arbat shopping mall.

Authorities put Begun's wife, Inna, and son, Boris, under house arrest Tuesday. Boris Begun managed to join the demonstrators Wednesday, but his mother remained at home.

Police did not interfere with the Monday and Tuesday protests, but on Wednesday plainclothesmen took away the placards. They shoved and punched Western journalists and television cameramen trying to report the event.

One cut the cable of a camera carried by a crew from the ABC Moscow bureau.

Some people in a crowd that gathered expressed support for the protesters, but others shouted anti-Semitic slogans referring to the Nazi extermination of Jews.

After about 20 minutes, a man identifying himself as a city official told the protesters that their demonstration was illegal.

The plainclothesmen and bystanders shoved the demonstrators together. They tried to resist but were pushed out of the mall onto a side street.

Uniformed police nearby took no action. None of the protesters reported injuries.

Boris Begun said later that his father had been put on a harsh diet at Chistopol prison, 500 miles east of Moscow.

"He gets 900 calories per day," the son said. "That's a small loaf of bread, about 60 grams (two ounces) of salt herring, some porridge and soup that is little more than water. It's like slow torture by hunger."

The mass release Gerasimov announced covered some dissidents jailed under a law forbidding "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda."

The son said Begun was believed to be the only person still imprisoned under that law at Chistopol. How many are in labor camps is not known.

Gerasimov said Josef Begun declined to submit an application for pardon.

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