31.1 The Trial of Dzheppar Akimov

No 31 : 17 May 1974

Tashkent Region Court, 21-28 November 1972, Article 190-1 of the RSFSR criminal code, Article 191-4 of the Uzbek criminal code, Article 203-1 of the Tadzhik criminal code, sentence – 3 years’ imprisonment in a camp of ordinary regime. Judge –  M. M. Maksumov; assessors – N. A. Korzh and M. Kamilova; prosecutor – Tashkent Regional procurator K. Galashko; defence lawyer – S.S. Lukyanov.

Dzheppar (Dzhabar) Akimov was born in 1909 in the village of Tuak near Alushta.

A teacher by education, he worked until the [Second World] War in schools and in the People’s Commissariat of Education of the Crimean ASSR. Then he was an editor in the Crimean State Publishing House and with the Kyzyl Krym newspaper. He became a Party member in 1939.

At the beginning of the war, in evacuation, he was appointed chief editor of Kyzyl Krym. In 1942 Akimov was sent over to the partisans, where he published leaflets in the Tatar language. In May 1944 he was deported to the town of Bekabad in Uzbekistan, where he lived until his arrest. In 1944-1948 Akimov worked as deputy head of the Farkhad railway in the political section and then, until retirement, as an economist and planner in various institutions.

Akimov was an active figure in the Crimean Tatar movement, and was expelled for this from the Party in 1968. In 1966 he was one of 65 representatives delegated to deliver statements to the 23rd Party Congress (see this issue, CCE 31.11). He repeatedly took part in meetings of representatives of the Crimean Tatars in Central Asia and in Moscow. All these activities, alongside his suspected authorship of several statements, formed the charges against him at his trial.

The grounds for instigating proceedings against Akimov, however, were at first different. On 18 May 1972 in Bekabad black cloths were //hung out with the text “18 May – the day of the expulsion of the Crimean Tatars from their homeland” (CCE 27.// reported, evidently mistakenly, that Akimov hung out the flags).

An investigation was opened and entrusted to investigator Berezovsky who had already specialized over a long period in affairs of the Crimean Tatar movement. On 19 May in Bekabad several searches were carried out (see this issue, CCE 31.19) and two copies of the appeal “49 years since the Leninist decree on the formation of the Crimean ASSR”, bearing corrections in his hand, were confiscated from Akimov. At first he was made to sign a written undertaking that he would not leave the town. Then on 29 August he was arrested.

The arrest of Akimov provoked collective letters of protest. One of them, addressed to [Chairman of USSR Supreme Soviet] Podgorny and [procurator General] Rudenko was titled: “Freedom for our fellow-countryman, Dzhabar-Aga”. The letter said that the hanging out of a black flag was organized by the KGB in order to have a pretext to conduct searches of Akimov’s home and then for his arrest. Emphasising the Communist convictions of Akimov and his military and civic services, the authors wrote: “And such a man…was summoned to the KGB as a witness but did not return home again. We ask you to look into the substance of the case, to free at once the innocently and illegally arrested Akimov … And in order to put an end to all this political terror which is constantly oppressing the people it is necessary to resolve the Crimean Tatar national question without delay.”

The case against Akimov was then separated from the affair of the flags, and on 24 October the investigation concluded with his prosecution under Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code and the identical articles of the criminal codes of the Tadzhik and Uzbek republics. He was charged with: four information sheets signed by himself (5, 8, 25 and 108) about the meetings of Crimean Tatar representatives (see this issue, CCE 31.11, 31.15 and 31.16); his own participation in these meetings; and the co-authorship of two appeals – the one mentioned above and one in connection with the 50th anniversary of the USSR (this issue, CCE 31.17).

In the indictment Berezovsky established the illegal character of these materials with the forceful formula: “The presence of knowingly false fabrications which defame the Soviet political and social system is confirmed by the content of the documents enumerated in the indictment and attached to the case as material evidence.” Despite the exhaustive character of this formula, it was also pointed out that two of the information sheets (numbers 5 and 8) had already been ruled to be defamatory at another trial (the case of Bairamov, Bariyev et al., sentenced on 5 September 1972) [1]. Furthermore, one or two quotations were cited from each item. For example, in information sheet 8 “Akimov and other representatives of action groups knowingly make false assertions that dozens of Crimean Tatars are allegedly languishing in prisons up to the present day”; in the appeal “49 years since the Leninist decree…”  “false aspersions are cast on the position of the Crimean Tatars in the USSR, to the effect that their national equality has allegedly been violated … slanderous fabrications are cited about how after the deportation of the Tatars from the Crimea ‘there started a nightmarish life in reservations and exile.”

Berezovsky proved the co-authorship of Akimov by the confiscation of documents in searches made at the homes of seven other people, by Akimov’s personal signature and his correction of two pages, and by the testimonies of several witnesses about the participation of Akimov in the discussion of the documents.

The charge of inciting activity made use of statements about the great authority of Akimov amongst the Crimean Tatars. The indictment referred to the court a list of 37 witnesses.

The trial began on 21 November, about which relatives and witnesses were warned only the evening before. The small hall accommodated, not counting police officials, only the wife and brother of Akimov. However, on this occasion a protest (to the Uzbek Procuracy) had an effect; on the second day of the trial the session was transferred to a large hall and the public were admitted. There were significant difficulties with the choice of a defence counsel. The Moscow barristers who had agreed to conduct the case were strictly forbidden to do so by the //Collegium of Barristers. In Tashkent a barrister had to be replaced actually on the day of the trial, and because of this the proceedings were twice interrupted and the examination of the case essentially took place on 27 and 28 November, beginning with the interrogation of witnesses. The questions urged the witnesses to give the “necessary” evidence, but the result was often far from this.

In his evidence Akimov, after telling the court his biography, talked about the tragic position of the Crimean Tatars under the system of punitive surveillance and about how even after the 20th Party Congress [1956] they had remained in the places of special settlement. He declared:

“The documents signed by me express the will and aspiration of the Crimean Tatars, their content does not distort Soviet reality, but merely reflects a situation that actually exists concerning the national question. This movement is legal and inevitable; I therefore consider the charges brought against me to be unfounded and illegal.”

The prosecutor K. Galashko contended that the Crimean Tatars were satisfied with their position and that their movement had been provoked only by incitement. He did not discuss the content of the documents with which Akimov was charged.

Defence counsel Lukyanov, without mentioning the motives for Akimov’s participation in the movement of the Crimean Tatars and without disputing the assertions about the defamatory character of the documents, insisted that neither the authorship of Akimov nor his participation in the dissemination of documents had been proved at the trial.

In his final address Akimov spoke about the reasons for the emergence of a national movement of Crimean Tatars, about the legality and justice of their appeals to Party and Soviet bodies, and declared: “I remain a Communist and a Leninist and remain with my people …”

In the verdict it was maintained that “Akimov is one of the organisers and instigators of the so-called movement for the return of all Tatars to the Crimea”. It was ruled to be proven that Akimov had participated “in illegal and anti-social get-togethers” and in the preparation and dissemination of six documents, reference being made to the evidence of witnesses Ablayev, Seidkhalilov, Z. Shugu and others.

It was also written:

“The accused Akimov D. A. does not deny that he corrected documents and appealed at a meeting for support of the position of an action group and for the signing of information sheets which he himself had signed. In his explanation Akimov D. A. did not regard this activity as involving fabrications which defamed the Soviet political and social system, and therefore maintained that there was no corpus delicti.”

Despite the presence of mitigating circumstances (no previous convictions), the court handed down the maximum term of 3 years, “considering that the crime committed was systematic and socially dangerous and resulted in the involvement of other persons”.

In some “critical comments on the trial record” which were appended to the record, defence counsel Lukyanov pointed out that the replies to his questions of many witnesses, including some named in the verdict, had not been recorded. These witnesses had said that they had not been present at various meetings and did not know who had composed the information sheets and appeals. According to the “critical comments”, certain testimonies in the record had been invented. In the appeal and later, in a complaint to the procurator of the Uzbek republic, Lukyanov asked for the sentence to be revoked and the case closed in view of the failure to prove the charges, as the correction and discussion of previously prepared documents did not signify authorship or co-authorship. The conclusions of the court about authorship were built not on proofs but on suppositions.

Both complaints were unsuccessful.

In December 1973 a group of Crimean Tatar representatives delivered protests to the Party Central Committee against the imprisonment of Akimov, signed by many Crimean Tatars living in Uzbekistan, and also sent a telegram of protest on his behalf (this issue CCE 31.24).

A significant place was given to the case of Akimov in a declaration of the Crimean Tatar people (this issue, CCE 31.227) which was sent to Soviet bodies and to the UN.

NOTES

[1] An error. CCE 9 and other sources report, sentence was pronounced in this trial on 5 August 1969.