A dissident Soviet Jew was sentenced to three years in prison camp today in a Moscow city court after it found him guilty of illegal drug trafficking.
Friends and supporters of Yuli Edelshtein said he had been framed by security agents who placed marijuana and opium in his apartment during a search last Sept. 4.
Edelshtein, 26, had applied unsuccessfully for a visa to leave for Israel with his wife, Tatyana. He was said to have irritated officials by giving Hebrew lessons without authorization.
Other Hebrew teachers have been seized by police in recent weeks in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Odessa. One of them, Joseph Berenshtein of Kiev, was sentenced to four years earlier this month on charges of having resisted police. Another, Yakov Levy of Odessa, was given a three-year term in a labor camp for anti-Soviet slander.
As Edelshtein's friends and supporters waited for the outcome of today's proceedings, police arrested another Hebrew teacher, identified as Dan Shapiro of Moscow, on charges of assaulting a police officer outside the court building.
In a related development, Nadezhda Tredkova, 38, of Leningrad was sentenced to two years in a labor camp today after being convicted of "parasitism" by a Leningrad city court.
Tredkova, a linguist and mathematician by training, applied to emigrate to Israel six years ago. Last July, when she was forced into a mental institution, she was reported to have sought permission to give English lessons. She was released from the mental hospital on Dec. 12 after being tested to determine whether she was fit to stand trial.
Soviet citizens who apply to emigrate are frequently dismissed from their jobs. During the past year, however, officials have sought to induce a large number of would-be emigrants to withdraw their visa applications, assuring them that they would get back their jobs.
The Soviet news agency Tass, in a report on Edelshtein's trial today, charged that western correspondents were trying to portray him "now as a religious leader, now as a linguist and now even as a person of exceptionally high moral standards."
The court proceedings proved, Tass said, that Edelshtein, formerly employed as a sanitation worker, was "involved in illegal drug trafficking." During the search of his apartment on Sept. 4, Tass said, "marijuana and opium were found in his possession, which meant that he had perpetrated a criminal offense against the health and morality of citizens." He was given the maximum term under Article 224 of the criminal code.
The latest moves against militant "refuseniks," a term used by some of those denied permission to emigrate to Israel, suggest that the authorities were trying to discourage attempts to spread religious orthodoxy and greater consciousness of their heritage among some sections of Soviet Jewry.
Clandestine Hebrew language classes were seen here as one way of maintaining the spirit and cohesion of those who had committed themselves to emigration and now regard Israel as their homeland.
Since 1982, Jewish emigration has virtually stopped and there seem to be no prospects of it resuming on the scale that existed in the 1970s, when nearly 270,000 Soviet Jews left. During the past two years, about 100 persons per month have been allowed to leave for Israel.
There are hopes among Soviet Jews that improved Soviet-American relations might bring about a slight change in Moscow's policies toward the emigration issue.