BeginPremier Menachem Begin will raise the issue of Prisoner of Conscience Anatoly Shcharansky with U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig when the two meet Thursday in Jerusalem. This pledge was made today by Deputy Foreign Minister Yehuda Ben-Meir who appeared at a press conference here with Shcharansky’s wife, Avital.

Ben-Meir said Israel’s government knew full well that Haig, among other Western statesmen, had tried in the past to bring influence to bear on the Soviets in regard to Shcharansky’s case. But now, with the latest news of Shcharansky’s deteriorating physical condition, Begin would ask the Secretary of State to try yet again. Ben-Meir said Avital herself was fully informed of Israel’s efforts on her husband’s behalf, although not all of these could be made public.

Both Ben-Meir and Avital issued an appeal to world opinion, parliaments and governments to help bring about the release of Anatoly. “He is guilty of no crime,” Ben-Meir said of the aliya activist sentenced in 1978 to 13 years imprisonment — a sentence since increased — on espionage charges. “His only crime is his desire to live like a Jew and live in Israel,” Ben-Meir said.

Avital said she and the family had been “both shocked and proud” at the report — brought by Anatoly’s mother and brother who met with him last Monday — of his year of lone fighting for his rights in the Soviet Gulag.

Basically, she charged, the Soviet’s intention in treating him with extraordinary harshness was to squeeze out of him a confession of guilt in the espionage charges — a confession that he refused to make at his trial, and that he still refuses to make.

Details Of Anatoly’s Treatment

Avital gave details of his treatment — including 75 consecutive days in solitary confinement on a near-starvation diet, which, she said, was much harsher than known precedents even in the Soviet system. Anatoly kept insisting in letters to the authorities that he be given back his prayer book, taken from him forcibly.

His lighting of Chanuka candles in December angered the prison authorities, Avital said, which resulted in further punishments. His mother, Ida Milgrom and his brother, Leonid, had found him “weak and wasted in body” but “strong and unbroken in spirit,” Avital said, when they were finally able to meet with him for two hours January 4, ending an 18 month ban on visits.

She appealed to the world to save him “before it is too late” since in his health condition he could not be expected to survive three more years at the extra-harsh Chistopol Prison where he is now confined for three years (as a result to an in-prison trial for “influencing” other prisoners.)