To the Editors:
Ten Moscow Jews have spoken out strongly in defense of Dr. Andrei Tverdokhlebov, the recently arrested secretary of the Moscow group of Amnesty International. In a sharply worded appeal which has just reached the West they call on “all people of good will” to demand Dr. Tverdokhlebov’s “immediate release.”
The appeal is notable, as Soviet Jews do not normally intercede for non-Jews, and Tverdokhlebov is a Russian. The only exceptions in the past have been the world-famous figures of Andrei Sakharov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
The signatories stress Tverdokhlebov’s courage and compassion. “Anyone who had suffered from the indifference, cruelty and cynicism of the Soviet bureaucracy could turn to Tverdokhlebov at any time.” They point also to his public support of the right of Jews to emigration, and his activity in Amnesty International. As this organization “enjoys international respect,” they write, “his arrest can be interpreted only as a slap in the face to world public opinion.”
“The statutes of this organization permit its members to defend the political prisoners not of their own countries, but of other countries. So it is clear that the people who arrested Tverdokhlebov not only do not intend to ease the lot of their own political prisoners, who are subjected to semi-starvation and daily persecution in the camps and prisons of the USSR. They are suppressing even those who, like Tverdokhlebov, help people who are suffering for their beliefs outside the USSR.”
Among the signatories are several well-known Jewish scholars who have been denied the right to emigrate to Israel for several years: Dr. Vitaly Rubin, a Sinologist; Dr. Vladimir Slepak, an engineer; and Dr. Alexander Lunts, a physicist.