BORN LONDON, JULY 19, 1938. DIED LONDON, SEPTEMBER 8, 2007, AGED 69.
AN OUTSTANDING friend of the Jewish people, Nicholas Bethell was a passionate human-rights campaigner, writes Peter Moss.
A talented historian and linguist, he campaigned on behalf of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov and Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky.
He was largely instrumental in the release of Sakharov from internal exile in 1986, after instituting the Sakharov Prize in the European Parliament the previous year.
As MEP for North West London from 1975-94, he helped steer the half-dozen or so test cases we co-presented through the labyrinthine European Parliament. It was due largely to his tenacity and charisma that every Soviet-Jewish refusenik family, on whose behalf I enlisted his help, reached Israel within months.
Harrow and Cambridge educated, Nicholas Bethell succeeded his cousin as 4th baron in 1967. A whip briefly in the Heath government, he stood down in 1971 to bring a successful libel suit against Private Eye magazine.
He wrote The Palestine Triangle: The Struggle Between the British, the Jews and the Arabs 1935-48 and translated Solzhenitsyn’s searing revelations of life under the Soviet regime.
In his early career he wrote for The Times Literary Supplement and was a BBC script editor, specialising in East European drama. He continued his writing and humanitarian work, despite Parkinson’s disease in 1995, until the end.
He is survived by his second wife and their son, and the two sons of his first marriage, which ended in divorce.