A small group of 25 Italian Jews today(Friday) demonstrated in St Peter's Square as Pope Paul was delivering his Christmas message to a crowd of 25,000.
A small group of 25 Italian Jews today(Friday) demonstrated in St Peter's Square as Pope Paul was delivering his Christmas message to a crowd of 25,000. The demonstrators were protesting against the severe sentences passed yesterday (Thursday) in Leningrad against eleven people, nine of them Jews, for attempting to hijack an aircraft to Sweden last June.
The group of protestors stood at the far end of the Square from the Basilica, silently distributing pamphlets and holding up placards reading "Freedom for the Jews in the Soviet Union."
The ten-day trial which ended yesterday has given rise to a series of Jewish protests throughout the world. Two of the group - both Soviet citizens - have been condemned to death by firing squad, and the other nine sentenced to a total of 101 years in labour camps for the attempted hi-jack. The severity of the sentences reflects the tough attitude towards hi-jacking adopted by the Soviet Union following two successful hijackings of Russian aircraft to Turkey last October.
But this group's plan to seize an aircraft at Leningrad Airport and flee to Sweden has also underlined the problem of Soviet Jews who wish to emigrate. Although the trial was held in secret and there has been no official report other than that the accused had pleaded guilty and repented, usually informed sources have said that several of them told the Court that their requests to emigrate to Israel had been turned down.