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Sailors Say They Spent 34 Years in Taiwan Prison

August 19, 1988 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) _ Three Soviet sailors said they were tortured while Taiwan held them in prison for 34 years, Tass reported. But a Taiwanese official said the sailors requested political asylum and were not held in jail.

The official Tass news agency said Vladimir Sablin, Boris Pisanov and Vladimir Kniga returned to the Soviet Union on Thursday. They were crewmen of the tanker ship Tuapse, which Tass said was captured by Taiwan July 23, 1954, while on its way to mainland China with a cargo of kerosene.

The news agency said 29 crew members were released in 1955 and five more the following year, but that the three were held.

″What the Soviet seamen had to go through during that time can be epitomized only in one word - horror,″ Tass said.

″They were made to look for days at hot white electric bulbs, wild dances of the prison guards on prostrate bodies of the prisoners, whose feet and arm joints were squeezed tight,″ Tass said. It gave no details on why the men were detained or what led to their release.

Tass said the three men arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport ″gray- haired with worry and grief,″ and were conspicuous because of their old clothes and constrained manner.

In Taiwan, a foreign ministry official speaking on condition of anonymity said the three sailors did not spend their years in jail. He said they requested political asylum in Taiwan and were treated as refugees.

The official declined further comment.

Taiwan newspapers, quoting unidentified sources, said the three sailors lived in a secluded compound guarded by security agents in Ilan, a fishing village 20 miles southwest of the capital Taipei.

In April, Tsai Chung-han, a parliamentarian of the governing Nationalist Party, asked the government to allow the seamen to return to the Soviet Union to visit their families after Taiwan adopted a policy permitting restricted contacts with communist countries.

The late Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and his supporters fled the Chinese mainland to the island of Taiwan in 1949 when communists led by Mao Tse-tung took power. The Nationalists established a staunchly anti- communist government on Taiwan. Taiwan has no diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.