63.1b The Trial of Felix Serebrov

No 63 : 31 December 1981

On 5 April Felix Serebrov wrote a statement, the essence of which was that he, Serebrov, being hostile towards the Soviet authorities, had been engaged in the composition and circulation of documents and materials which were used by the Western media, thus damaging the international prestige of the USSR.

On 19 May Serebrov wrote another statement. In it he condemned his own activities and promised not to engage in anything similar in the future. On 21 May the charge against him was reclassified from article 190-1 to article 70 of the RSFSR Criminal Code.

On 20 and 21 July Moscow City Court, presided over by the same V.V. Bogdanov, examined the case against Working Commission member Felix Arkadevich Serebrov (b. 1930; arrested 8 January – Chronicle 61), who was charged under article 70 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. The prosecutor was the same A.A. Golovin.

Serebrov rejected the lawyer appointed by the court (Serebrov had also rejected E.A. Reznikova after he and she had concluded their study of the case file – Chronicle 62).

On the morning of 20 July Serebrov’s wife went to the City Court where the case was due to be examined. There she was told that the trial would take place at the Lyublino District People’s Court. She went there, only to learn that the trial was taking place in the Babushkino District People’s Court (where A. Lavut stood trial – Chronicle 60).

Apart from the specially invited audience only Serebrov’s wife and stepdaughter were admitted into the courtroom.

*

Serebrov was charged with the composition, signing and circulation of:

  • Working Commission Information Bulletins Nos. 12-22 (together with V. Bakhmin, A. Podrabinek, L. Ternovsky and I. Grivnina);
  • The letters ‘A Word from an Islander of the Gulag Archipelago’ (1978) and ‘A Democracy Faculty’ (Chronicle 54);
  • Individual letters in defence of G. Yakunin and L. Ternovsky;
  • Collective letters in defence of T. Velikanova, A. Lavut and T. Osipova;
  • The appeal ‘To People Living on Earth’;
  • A statement in connection with a search on 10 April 1980 (Chronicle 56);
  • Moscow Helsinki Group Documents No. 138 (Chronicle 60) and No. 146 (Chronicle 60);
  • An open letter instead of an Autobiography’ (Chronicle 61), published after Serebrov’s arrest.

Serebrov was charged with activities beginning in the autumn of 1978, when he was released after his previous term in camp (Chronicle 51).

The First Day

After the reading of the indictment Serebrov’s statement dated 5 April was read out. The Judge then asked whether Serebrov pleaded guilty. Serebrov said that he acknowledged the authorship of all the documents incriminating him; however he denied the intention of undermining or weakening the Soviet political and social system. Serebrov said that one sentence in the indictment was not his own but had been dictated to him by the investigator. He stated that he ‘had not previously supposed that his materials could be used to damage the prestige of the USSR’. Serebrov also confirmed that he had been engaged in the distribution of the documents incriminating him. He testified that he had appeared at press conferences in front of Western correspondents ‘in a number of private flats’. In response to the court’s attempts to obtain details about this testimony Serebrov named Yu. Yarym-Agayev (who had emigrated in 1980 – Chronicle 57).

V. Kuvakin was questioned as a witness and confirmed that two copies of the Information Bulletin (Nos. 6 and had been confiscated from his home during a search, but he did not remember where they had come from.

Six doctors from various psychiatric hospitals were then questioned. They discussed the good conditions created for sick people and said that the people held in hospitals really are sick.

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A TASS report dated 20 July stated:

“’I condemn my harmful activities directed against the Soviet authorities’, announced the defendant, Felix Serebrov.’I repent of the fact that I have systematically conducted anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda by circulating documents containing slanderous fabrications defaming the Soviet political and social system’.

Serebrov fully admitted his guilt in respect of the charges against him.”

The Second Day

Answering the court’s questions, Serebrov pleaded guilty to composing and circulating anti-Soviet documents; however he insisted that he had had no intention of undermining the Soviet system and that he had not circulated deliberate fabrications. He admitted partial guilt. Serebrov said, too, that during the investigation he had discovered many mistakes in the Information Bulletins. However, he insisted that there was nothing premeditated about these mistakes.

Serebrov named a few foreign correspondents to whom he had given his material at press conferences.

Serebrov expressed his repentance for engaging in anti-Soviet activities and stated that he did not intend to engage in them in the future. The Procurator asked for a sentence of four years of camp and five years of exile for Serebrov.

Serebrov’s defending speech emphasized that there was no anti-Soviet intent in his activities and that the material incriminating him, in spite of a large number of mistakes, did not contain any deliberate lies. He also dwelt on the fact that the court had not discussed the matter of whether the hospitalized patients really constituted a social danger, but had merely established the fact that they were mentally ill. He had not been able to obtain an answer to this question from the doctors questioned as witnesses during the trial. The Working Commission, when talking of compulsory hospitalization for political reasons, had not asserted that those hospitalized were healthy. Serebrov declined to make a final speech. (On that day Serebrov looked much worse than he had on the previous day: for two hours before the trial he had been confined in a prison van).

The sentence was four years of strict-regime camp and five years of exile. The judgment included references to I. Grivnina’s testimony and to the fact that Serebrov was a most active member of the Working Commission and had played a leading role in editing the Information Bulletins, especially the most recent issues (Grivnina’s testimony was not only not read out in court: it had not even been mentioned).