Word reaches the West on the condition of two Soviet Baptists

Soviet prison authorities have punished a young Latvian Baptist and political prisoner for describing harsh prisoner transport conditions. Latvian 'emigr'e sources said that Janis Rozkalns, a prisoner in the Perm region camp No. 35, served 15 days in solitary confinement late last fall for a letter of his that was published in the West.

According to information received only recently, Mr. Rozkalns has also been forbidden his 1985 annual visit from his family and, at last word, was being kept on short rations. Rozkalns' wife, Gunta, and their twin children had been planning to visit him in March.

Last July, Rozkalns addressed an open letter to the Stockholm Conference on Security Building Measures and Disarmament. The letter, obtained in the West last fall, accused Soviet prison authorities of deliberately starving and freezing prisoners in transit to labor camps and of denying them medical help.

A friend in the West explained that solitary confinement and denial of visiting privileges was a punishment commonly inflicted on Soviet political prisoners who complained about conditions. Visiting privileges are often withdrawn to keep information about the prisoner, or prison conditions generally, from filtering out.

'Emigr'e sources also said they had received word of continuing human rights activity inside a prison camp by Lidija Doronina, a Latvian Baptist activist serving a five-year sentence for possession of literature from the unofficial Soviet peace movement.

Mrs. Doronina is reported by Russian-language samizdat (underground publications) to have signed an open letter to Edvard Mezalaitis, a Soviet Lithuanian poet who wrote an article in the government newspaper Izvestia last year decrying alleged prison mistreatment of an American Indian activist.

In the letter, Doronina and Olga Matusevica, a Ukrainian prisoner, said conditions at their womens' prison camp Zh 385/3-4 in Mordovia were far worse than alleged abuses of Leonard Peltier, the native American in prison in Illinois, whose cause the Soviet news media has taken up. In an additional note signed by Doronina alone, she points to the hunger strike last year by Nobel prize-winning Soviet physicist Andrei Sakharov and his wife, Yelena Bonner, as a human rights cause Mr. Mezalaitis should support.

A separate samizdat document, 'emigr'e sources say, lists several one-day hunger strikes by Doronina on behalf of fellow prisoners or to commemorate human rights causes. Doronina was sentenced to a labor camp in August, 1983, but has been jailed since she was seized by the Latvian KGB in January, 1983.

The reports confirm descriptions of Doronina as a relentless fighter for human rights and the welfare of political prisoners, despite her age and infirm health. She is over 60 years old and has served two previous prison terms on political charges, in 1948 and 1970.

Like Rozkalns, who was jailed for possession of religious materials, Doronina apparently bases her actions on her faith. The posture of some Baptists is especially irritating to the Soviets because they are unwilling to compromise, and suffer rather than abandon their principles.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Word reaches the West on the condition of two Soviet Baptists
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today