40.1 – “No Thought Trials in the USSR” [Tatyana Khodorovich]

<< No 40 : 20 May 1976 >>

Statement by Tatiana Khodorovich

At trials in Odessa, Moscow, Omsk and Vilnius, people have again been prosecuted and found guilty of thoughts they have expressed – and even thoughts they have not expressed.

Sentences have been passed as follows:

Vyacheslav Igrunov – sent to an ordinary psychiatric hospital;

Andrei Tverdokhlebov – 5 years’ exile;

Mustafa Dzhemilev – two and a half years in strict-regime camps;

Valery Maresin – 6 months’ corrective labour.

Certain citizens of the Soviet Union and of Western countries, have seen the seeds of liberalism in these sentences and sighed with relief. At last! A psychiatric hospital, not a psychiatric prison [“special” psychiatric hospital]; exile, not a labour camp; two and a half years imprisonment, not seven.

It is our duty to issue a warning: normal people should harbour no illusions about trials in the USSR!

It is not just that people are arrested for nothing. It is not merely that people are sent for trial with no specific criminal charge and condemned only for their beliefs, i.e. for having the courage to exist as individuals. That is not all. Trying people for their beliefs means a judicial charade is being staged. It is only a means to an end, a formal pretext for the future isolation and destruction of the individual, of a human being.

Trying people for their beliefs, for their thoughts, is only the outward function of State Security. Its goal is not to punish people for their convictions, for their “seditious” thoughts, but to root out all thoughts and eliminate all those who go on thinking.

A trial removes the individual from the world and delivers him to State Security. It is the beginning of a martyr’s life for that person.

The Odessa Region Court has now labelled Vyacheslav lgrunov, 27 years old, as “off his head”. Remember that, when you open your mouth, when write a few lines, moved by some injustice, remember that when you read a “forbidden” book: you are not yet in hell, you are only on the threshold. From now on Vyacheslav Igrunov will for ever live with the threat of doors slamming shut in a psychiatric prison. It will keep his friends and relations in fear and trembling.

The sentence passed by a Soviet court is not a punishment for a crime committed: it is an unlimited opportunity for further unobserved reprisals, psychological and physical, against the individual.

Two and a half years ago a court in Kiev declared prisoner of conscience Alexander Feldman to be a criminal and sentenced him to the company of real thieves, rapists and murderers. At the end of March this year Alexander was the victim of an attempt on his life when his head was split open by a spade. Feldman was taken to the hospital. The camp commandant, Aleinikov, did not report either the date of the attack or the name of the culprit. He refused to allow Feldman’s father to visit his son or send him a parcel.

The prison in Vladimir is today full of prisoners who can testify how the law courts give the KGB an opportunity for further unobserved reprisals. The isolation afforded by the barbed wire fence around labour camps seems insufficient to State Security. At its behest camp tribunals have passed sentence on the following behind prison walls: Vladimir Bukovsky, Kronid Lyubarsky, Alexander Sergienko, Vladimir Balakhonov, Georgy Davydov, Zinovy Antonyuk and many others.

As they say, it is the first step that counts.

Simeon Gluzman, a young psychiatrist and doctor well known for his defence of people declared mentally ill by Soviet courts, is being threatened with new charges in the camps. This is because the documents he produced there, including the “Manual on Psychiatry for Dissenters” (dedicated to Leonid Plyushch), have been published in the West. In March this year, Gluzman was transferred from the camp to a prison in Perm [Urals District], where attempts were made to “re-educate” him. He was warned by State Security officials that a “case” was being prepared against him in the camp under Article 70, paragraph 2 of the RSFSR Criminal Code (“Anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda”). Simeon Gluzman has now been sent back to the camp from the prison. There has been no further news of his fate.

It is not so much that the legal norms of judicial procedure are not observed: it is that they cannot be observed.

There is no legal justice. Nor will there be, while courts are given the right to try a man because he is an individual, because he thinks for himself. So we should ask not for mercy or pardons for prisoners of conscience – we should demand their immediate release! Freedom and, in the name of justice, their acquittal on all charges. Freedom for those who have already been incarcerated for a long time: for all prisoners sentenced for Free Speech in Vladimir Prison, for all the Free Speech prisoners in Soviet camps and psychiatric prisons.

Freedom for those who have been sentenced, quite recently, to such torment: Sergei Kovalyov, Anatoly Marchenko, Vyacheslav Igrunov, Mustafa Dzhemilev, and Andrei Tverdokhlebov.

Freedom for them all, and their acquittal on all charges. They are guilty of no crime, they are not criminals.

[This translation is the slightly abridged version published by Amnesty International in January 1979]