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Meiman Wins Kremlin's OK to Emigrate, but Victory Is Hollow

January 27, 1988|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Naum Meiman, a mathematician who for 12 years has been denied permission to emigrate on grounds that he had knowledge of state secrets, learned Tuesday that he will be allowed to leave for Israel.

For Meiman, 76, retired and in poor health, it is a clear triumph over the authorities.

But it is a hollow victory. He had pleaded with the authorities for permission to emigrate with his cancer-stricken wife, the late Inna Kitrosskaya. A year ago, after four years of suffering, she was finally allowed to go to the United States for treatment. It was too late; she died three weeks after her arrival.

Then, Soviet officials refused to allow Meiman to go to Washington for her funeral.

Meiman, a founder of the so-called Helsinki Group formed to monitor Soviet compliance with human rights commitments, never stopped writing petitions, letters and press releases to advance the cause of Jewish emigration. His Moscow apartment was a center of refusenik activity.

He greeted visitors in his cluttered sitting room, where a table was usually strewn with documents typed in Russian and English on onionskin paper.

Although he has a married daughter who lives in Boulder, Colo., Meiman has said that he wants to go to Israel. "I want to live the rest of my life in a free, democratic, Jewish state," he said.

His case had been brought up by almost every Western leader in talks with Soviet officials but, until now, nothing seemed to work. At one point, he despaired of ever getting approval to leave.

But now, the secrecy justification for rejecting his application has been dropped without explanation. An official simply telephoned and said he could go.

Meiman took the news calmly; he had received advance word from a friend in France that his emigration was assured.

Now, he begins making arrangements to leave his homeland and start over in a new country, alone.

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