The Trial of Gabai and Dzhemilev, 12-19 January 1970 (12.3)

«No 12 : 28 February 1970»

From 12 to 19 January 1970 the case of Ilya GABAI and Mustafa DZHEMILEV was heard in the Tashkent City Court.

Ilya Gabai, from Moscow, was arrested after innumerable searches of his flat (CCE 8.4) and, although charged under Article 190-1 of the Russian Criminal Code, he was sent to Tashkent. Mustafa Dzhemilev was charged under Article 191-4 of the Uzbek Criminal Code ( = Article 190-1 of the Russian Code).

The Judge was Pisarenko; the Lay Assessors, Orlova and Usmanova. The prosecutor was the Procurator of the Uzbek Socialist Republic, Bocharov. Gabai was defended by the Moscow lawyer D.I. Kaminskaya; Dzhemilev conducted his own defence.


Gabai was accused of preparing and circulating a number of documents: the letter of the twelve to the Budapest Conference of Communist Parties (CCE 1.4); an appeal to public figures in the arts, science and culture, signed by I. Gabai, Yu. Kim and P. Yakir; a letter to the Procurator-General Rudenko about the trial of L. Kvachevsky and others; the appeal of Moscow citizens in defence of the Crimean Tatars; and other documents.

Mustafa Dzhemilev was accused of producing, among other documents, the 69th issue of the Crimean Tatar Information Bulletin.

Both of the accused pleaded not guilty.


During the hearing the accused and the defence demanded that the facts mentioned in the documents listed in the indictment should be checked. The court declined to check the facts, and only the authorship and the circumstances of the composition and circulation of the documents were established.

All the witnesses were questioned about their beliefs, philosophy and personal life. The witnesses questioned at the trial stated that the documents on the basis of which the accused had been charged reflected the true state of affairs and so were not slanderous. However this was not taken into account by the judge when he pronounced sentence.

Every day that the trial proceedings continued reinforced police units were on duty outside the courthouse. In the courtroom some twenty to thirty officials of the KGB were always present. Once, when they had taken all the seats in the front two rows, a commotion broke out. The accused, and their relatives who had been squeezed out into the back rows, demanded that the court request the officials of the KGB to leave the courtroom. Gabai and Dzhemilev protested formally against such pressure on the court on the part of the KGB, and at the same time demanded that those relatives and friends who had been driven from the court house by the police should be admitted to the court.

The judge declared that the comrades sitting in the front rows were not creating a disturbance, whereas one of the comrades sitting in back rows was breaking the rules: he was sitting in the court room wearing a hat. This was Mustafa Dzhemilev’s 75-year-old uncle, who in accordance with Muslim custom had not removed his hat. The judge requested that he either remove his hat or leave the court. The old man burst into tears and bared his head. Shouts and groans were heard in the court. Only the first two rows maintained an unruffled calm.

Dzhemilev demanded to be taken away and judged in his absence, if the KGB officials were not removed. Gabai declared that he considered the presence of the agents of the KGB a personal insult.

All those present were requested to leave the room and the hearing was adjourned. After the adjournment, and right up to the end of the trial, the officials of the KGB occupied the back rows of the court room.


Bocharov’s speech for the prosecution lasted an hour, and three-quarters of it consisted of a rehash of newspaper editorials about the schemes of bourgeois ideology. (Both the accused lodged an objection against him, as he was responsible for organising the mass beating-up of Crimean Tatars in the town of Chirchik (CCE 2.4, item 2), but the objection was overruled.)

Gabai, in the words of the procurator, was “very clever, in the sense of cunning”, a careerist who had armed himself for the trial with brilliant references from various places of work and from innumerable friends who were ready to testify in his favour. It was also for reasons of his career that Gabai had slandered the Soviet system …

Dzhemilev was a hardened criminal …

The prosecutor asked for three years in a normal-regime camp for Gabai and three years in a strict-regime camp for Dzhemilev.


In her speech for the defence D.I. Kaminskaya remarked that she had not intended to speak particularly about the character of her client, since the testimony of the witnesses, the references and the written statements which had reached the court left no doubt about Gabai’s disinterestedness and high principles. Furthermore there could be no question that he had exceptional moral qualities. But inasmuch as the prosecutor had raised this question …

It was shameful, said D.I. Kaminskaya, to take advantage of the situation of a man who was in custody, and hurl in his face insults that were utterly absurd. To what career was the state prosecutor referring? To the one which had brought Gabai to the dock? Or did not the procurator understand that when Gabai added his signature to various protests, he was deliberately ruling out the possibility of any kind of advancement?

Analysing the documents which were part of the indictment against Gabai, D.I. Kaminskaya showed that the facts presented in these documents had not been shown to be untrue by the court. Consequently, the objective side of a criminal act had not been proved, and as far as the subjective side of the case was concerned (Article 190 of the Russian Criminal Code presupposes awareness, “the intention”, of telling a lie) Gabai undoubtedly believed in the truthfulness of everything he had written and signed.

The defence asked that Gabai be acquitted.


In his final speech Ilya Gabai said that one of the most terrible products of Stalinism was the mass corruption of people. He, Gabai, opposed acts of political repression and the persecution of dissidents, because he did not wish to resemble the representatives of that generation which “did not notice” the disappearance of fourteen million of their fellow citizens in the 1930s and 1940s.

He, Gabai, was accused of slander, without even an attempt being made to substantiate the so-called “slander”. Furthermore slander was allowed to do its work in the press unpunished. For example the journal Crimea poured filth over the Crimean Tatar nation. Or again, had those who had called the Jewish doctors “murderers in white coats” [1] ever been held responsible? Or again, those who fostered an atmosphere favourable to pogroms, such as [the poet] Gribachov and Kononenko [2], had they ever had to pay the price for their slander?

“Who distinguishes in our country between truth and lies? The answer is always: the people! But every crime ever committed here, every injustice perpetrated here in the present by the authorities, is always in the name of the people. And this will continue as long as questions of life and death are settled by a mechanical raising of hands, as long as the atmosphere of stultifying unanimity oppresses the individual, transforming the very concept of ‘the people’ into an instrument of demagogy and oppression …”

In conclusion I. Gabai said that he asked nothing for himself from the court.

In his speech in his own defence and in his concluding statement, Mustafa Dzhemilev spoke about the struggle of the Crimean Tatar nation to return to its homeland and for the restoration of its national status. Dzhemilev spoke about the material and spiritual culture his people had created in the Crimea. Dzhemilev presented the court with a list of literary and publicistic articles published in our country, which contained material slanderous to the Crimean Tatar people. Dzhemilev spoke about how the local authorities and punitive organs persecuted the Crimean Tatars who wish to return to their homeland.

M. Dzhemilev declared that as a sign of protest against the persecution of the Crimean Tatars and against the arbitrary nature of the trial he would go on a thirty-day hunger strike.

“Our homeland or death!” These were the last words of Mustafa Dzhemilev.

The court sentenced Ilya Gabai to three years’ imprisonment (ordinary regime) and Mustafa Dzhemilev to three years’ imprisonment (strict regime).


Gabai and Dzhemilev appealed to the Supreme Court of the Uzbek Republic.

In the Supreme Court D.I. Kaminskaya will defend the interests of I. Gabai, and the lawyer Yu. B. Pozdeyev those of Dzhemilev.

406 Crimean Tatars have sent the USSR Supreme Court a protest letter in defence of Dzhemilev and Gabai.