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2 More Activists Being Released, Moscow Says

February 18, 1987|Associated Press

MOSCOW — The Soviet government announced Tuesday that two more dissidents have been ordered released from prison and that Jewish activist Josef Begun is likely to be freed.

If they are released, it would be in line with Kremlin actions to free dissidents whose imprisonment has been an obstacle to better Soviet relations with the West. Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev has launched a liberalization drive and has said the Soviet Union is changing its approach to human rights "for all to see."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov said the government has ordered the release of Anatoly Koryagin and Alexander Ogorodnikov and will "most likely" free Begun.

Gerasimov told a news briefing he does not know whether Koryagin is free yet, but he said a government decision was made Friday to pardon him from charges of anti-Soviet activity.

"Today or tomorrow he will be released," Gerasimov said.

Tass Report on Briefing

The official Tass news agency issued a report on Gerasimov's briefing, quoting him as saying that Koryagin was to be set free and that Begun's case was under review.

There have been demonstrations in the United States urging Begun's release, and plainclothes police in Moscow broke up a series of demonstrations on Begun's behalf last week in the Soviet capital.

Begun, 55, was sentenced to seven years in prison and five in internal exile in October, 1983, after conviction on charges of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.

Gerasimov attempted to explain the confusion over Begun that arose when Georgy A. Arbatov, head of the Kremlin's U.S.A. and Canada Institute, said Sunday that the Jewish activist had been freed.

'Special Procedure'

"His case is being considered, and I should like to indicate that there is a special procedure--you cannot do it just like that," he said. "Most likely it will be decided in a positive way."

Gerasimov brushed off questions about the conflicting reports, saying, "I'm not my brother's keeper."

Gerasimov told the Associated Press in a telephone call after the briefing that a list of those who had been granted clemency included Ogorodnikov, 36, who founded a Christian movement in the 1970s.

Sentenced in 1980 to six years in labor camp, Ogorodnikov is serving a second, consecutive three-year sentence for alleged anti-Soviet activity.

Gerasimov said that about 150 dissidents have been granted pardons so far in a review of sentences under two laws prohibiting anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda and anti-Soviet slander. He said 140 to 150 cases are still being considered.

He announced about 140 of the releases a week earlier, saying they were made by decree of the Supreme Soviet, the national Parliament. Gerasimov said those freed applied for pardons and promised to cease anti-Soviet behavior.

Some of the released prisoners said they had not made such a promise.

Emigration Question

Gerasimov evaded a question about whether Koryagin would be required to emigrate in return for his freedom. "He is now in prison where there is no desk to buy air tickets," Gerasimov replied.

Koryagin, a 48-year-old psychiatrist, was sentenced in 1981 to seven years in prison and five years' internal exile after publishing reports that the Soviet government sent some dissidents to mental hospitals.

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