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Russian History: XX century

Russian History: XIX сentury

Treatment of Dissidents in the 'Years of Stagnation'

Treatment of Dissidents in the 'Years of Stagnation'

Petition on the Legality of the Trial of Ginzburg, Galanskov, Dobrovol'skii and Lashkova

To: Procurator General of the USSR Rudenko, The USSR Supreme Court

In December 1967, letters were sent to various procuratorial and judicial offices requesting that those who wished to do so be allowed to attend the [then] impending trial of Ginzburg, Galanskov, Dobrovol'skii, and Lashkova. The signatories of these letters considered it their civic duty to press the authorities to make the trial public, since in the past our society had repeatedly been faced with flagrant violations of legality committed in court cases where the proceedings were either hidden from or falsified to the public.

Such was the case, for example, in the trials of Siniavskii and Daniel, of Khaustov, and of Bukovskii. All these trials were declared to be public, but in reality were not. Only persons with special passes were allowed into the courtroom, and the criteria for the issuance of these passes and the person(s) who issued them are not known. In sum, a specially selected 'public' was present in the courtroom, while friends and even several close relatives of the defendants were not permitted to attend. Only through the device of keeping the public ignorant of the proceedings was the KGB able to settle accounts with the dissidents.

Indeed the accused, who acted within the framework of our Constitution and our laws, and who in several instances used the Constitution as their defence, demanded that legality be observed, but were nevertheless committed to harsh sentences without genuine evidence of their guilt. In any event, the public bas no knowledge of such evidence. Only in the absence of open hearings could our press have printed reports which distorted the trial proceedings and grossly deceived readers regarding the trials' true nature. (For example, the only published notice concerning Bukovskii's trial, in the newspaper Vecherniaia Moskva, informed the public that Bukovskii had admitted his guilt, although this was completely false.)

There have been no answers to the letters, and not one of the signatories of the letters has received permission to attend the trial, which bas just been completed. Furthermore, the trial of Ginzburg, Galanskov, Dobrovol'skii, and Lashkova was characterised by even more scandalous violations of legality and turned out to be a repetition, in still more sombre form, of the other trials mentioned previously. All entrances to the Moscow Municipal Court building were guarded by numerous KGB functionaries, as well as by druzhinniki and policemen, who refused entry to anyone who did not possess special authorisation (the nature of which they stubbornly refused to disclose). During the days of the trial, the 'Commandant of the Court' was Tsirkunenko, a colonel of the KGB. Characteristically, even the relatives of the defendants were not all, and not immediately, admitted to the courtroom, even though many of them carried legal summonses. Relatives of the defendants, witnesses, and other citizens were subjected to rude treatment, threats and insults; they were photographed in order to intimidate them, their conversations were subjected to eavesdropping. Throughout the trial, constant surveillance was maintained over the relatives and close friends of the defendants with the express purpose of blackmailing them. All this was done so that no objective information could leak out of the courtroom. For example, the wife of Galanskov and the fiancée of Ginzburg received threats that added reprisals would be taken against the defendants if accounts of the trial were written down. Unknown persons coming out of the courtroom attempted to give completely false information to foreign correspondents, who themselves had not been admitted to the court session.

Many of us were witnesses to these facts and are prepared to corroborate them The fact that the organisation which carried out the investigation of the accused] was constantly involved in efforts to keep the trial from being public is a mockery of justice which should not be permitted in a civilised society. No one who respects himself and his calling as a judge had the right to conduct a court hearing under such conditions. And the fact that the trial proceedings were in every way kept hidden from the public appears to be sufficient grounds for a vote of non-confidence in the court and its verdict.

Therefore we cannot believe either in the justice of the prosecution of the case of Ginzburg, Galanskov, and Lashkova, or in the truth or sincerity of Dobrovol'skii's testimony, on the basis of which the former were alleged to have had ties with the NTS. This testimony compels us to recall the even more menacing aspects of the trials of the 1930s, when accused persons were subjected to coercion during the period of investigation and forced to admit their own guilt and that of others, with the result that millions of people were executed, tortured or incarcerated in labour camps for decades. In this connection it must be noted that in this case the accused were held in isolated confinement for investigation during an entire year, which far and away exceeds the investigatory periods stipulated under the Complete Procedural Code of the RSFSR.

It is generally known that Ginzburg compiled a collection of materials relating to the trial of Siniavskii and Daniel, which evoked a reaction on the part of both the Soviet and the world public; that Galanskov was editor of the mimeographed journal Phoenix, the contents of which had included, specifically, minutes of the discussion of the draft of the third volume of the History of the Party by Old Bolsheviks and documents of the Writers' Union recording the expulsion of Boris Pasternak from the Union; and finally, that Lashkova typed these materials. These things had been done openly. They [Ginzburg and Galanskov] placed their signatures on all the manuscripts. They attempted to make these materials public so that they could circulate openly. Soviet laws do not prohibit such activity. Do these actions of the defendants constitute a just basis for their arrest ? Isn't the indictment accusing them of having ties with subversive organisations (NTS) a typical means of reprisal utilised in the days of Stalin?

Such questions naturally arise as a result of the violations of the public's right to be informed that were perpetrated during this trial. Is it not incredible that people who acted openly and supported openness were in fact judged and sentenced secretly? A court organised and acting lawfully would not only have no fear of publicity but would welcome it in every way. We demand a retrial of the case of Ginzburg, Galanskov-Dobrovol'skii, and Lashkova by a reconstituted court acting in conformity with all the norms of legal procedure and with full publicity. We also demand that those officials guilty of gross violations of legality in this trial be brought to account. Iu. Apresian, Candidate in Philological Sciences, and other signatories

Source: Novoe russkoe slovo, 27 Feb.-7 Mar. 1968.

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