MOSCOW — Jewish activist Josef Begun came home to a tumultuous welcome today after more than three years in prison and vowed to "fight for real civil rights" and the release of all prisoners held for their beliefs.
"I am insanely happy to be free," Begun said at the Kazan train station where he arrived from Chistopol Prison, 500 miles east of Moscow.
Begun was surrounded by dozens of friends and well-wishers who tossed him carnations and tulips and hoisted him onto their shoulders. The crowd shouted the Hebrew greeting "Shalom!" and sang Hebrew songs and the Israeli national anthem.
Begun, wearing a blue prison coat and brown fur hat covering his close-cropped hair, appeared tired and gaunt after what he called the "inhuman conditions" at the prison. He said he had been in a punishment cell after going on a hunger strike Feb. 9.