Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
The poster had a silvery mirror finish, and printed on it, hanging down the middle, was a picture of a noose in color, so vivid it stood out almost three-dimensionally. Hang the poster on a wall at the right height, look at it and you could see your head caught in the noose. Across the bottom of the poster, stark black letters read: "Amnesty International." It cost $20.
There were other posters (one dominated by a blood-colored handprint), Alexander Calder posters going for $25 or $30, books and pamphlets, $5 inscribed T-shirts - all of this just past a suburban household's front door that now had a group picture affixed: "The gang that got Fernando Flores out of a Chilean jail."
Almost 300 people squeezed inside for a reception and a talk by Art Buchwald. There was a subdued but perceptible emphasis on fund-raising by the local Amnesty International Adoption Group 83, one of three area groups from some 1,900 groups in 31 countries that have sprung up since Amnesty international was founded in 1961.
Group 83 is trying to free three "prisoners of conscience," two in the Soviet Union and one in Indonesia, and help a fourth, a released Latin American trade unionist, get rehabilitated. The group is made up largely of young professionals, described by one as having a "background in the humanities, activists when younger but not rebels, with strong overtones of religious commitment, social workers with a bent toward political action."
The rooms are spacious in the Bethesda home of Rep. Newton I. Steers (R-Md.) where the event was held, but the whole first floor was wall-to-wall people, and the room where Buchwald spoke was almost as crowded as some of the detention cells that political prisoners described during the evening. "Newt Steers still thinks this is a fund-raiser for him," Buchwald quipped. "Don't anybody tell him it isn't until we leave."
Buchwald said he joined Amnesty International a few years ago because "I realized I was getting vast sums of money for what other people were getting thrown in jail for.
"I'm here to pay my dues," he said.
His sales pitch for Amnesty stressed its non-partisan approach: "You can have a prisoner of your choice. If you're a leftist, you can adopt a Communist prisoner in Chile, and if you're a rightist, you can adopt a right-wing prisoner in a Communist country. We have prisoners for everybody."
A survey of Amnesty's latest annual report confirmed his statement. Probably the largest number of prisoners with whom the organization is concerned are in Indonesia, suspects still detained as a result of an attempted Communist coup in 1965. But the organization is also concerned with the treatment of conscientious objectors in France, a West German law that prohibits the publication of material which "glorifies violence," the death penalty in Bermuda, the treatment of Arab prisoners in Israel.
As of the last annual report, there were 14 persons in U.S. prisons adopter or being considered for adoption - all either blacks or American Indians. The report noted that there was no overt political oppression in this country, but there was a suspicion that some people might have been framed on criminal charges because of their race or political ideas.
Steve Klitzman, a local lawyer and group chairman, took a few guests around the Steers' living room, when people could still move, and pointed to posters describing the so-called crimes and probable whereabouts of the prisoners.
Olga Talamante, a Mexican-American, was in the room and told of being "tortured and interrogated" and held prisoner for 14 months in Argentina, Juan Ferreira, son of a former presidential candidate in Uruguay, told of being arrested and held briefly eight times.
Buchwald said he is enthusiastic about Amnesty because "it works; they have an intelligence system that's a little better than the CIA. When the authorities know that we have the name of a prisoner and are willing to use publicity, sometimes the prisoner's life gets a little bit easier."