The Trial of Georgy Vins, 27-31 January 1975 (35.3)

Kiev, 27-31 January 1975

The court building was guarded by a detachment of police. Entrance was by special pass only. A group of religious believers were pushed back to the other side of the street.

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The defendant was Georgy Petrovich Vins, b. 1928, Secretary of the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians and Baptists (CCECB). From 1966 to 1969 he spent three years in labour camps under Article 142, paragraph 2 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. He was arrested on 31 March 1974 (Chronicle 32). At this trial he faced charges under Articles 138, paragraph 2, 187-1 and 209, paragraph 1 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code, corresponding to Article 142, 190-1 and 227 of the R S F S R Criminal Code.

The case was heard by the Kiev regional court. The presiding judge was Dyshel (CCE 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 34). The people’s assessors were Polyakova and Sechkarev. The prosecutor was Tsekhotsky. Luzhnenko was assigned to be defence attorney.

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Vins declined the services of the attorney, saying that in his opinion an atheist could not defend him in this case. Luzhnenko and the court accepted his refusal.

The defendant informed the court that his family has asked the Norwegian lawyer Alf Haerem to defend him, and he asked the court to allow the latter to take part in the trial.

In addition, Vins made 17 other requests. These included a request that the Council for Religious Affairs at the Ukrainian SSR Council of Ministers be asked to state in court the true reason for the liquidation of the Baptist Union in 1935, the number of believers convicted for their faith between 1929 and January 1975 and the number of believers who died in prison during the same period. The purpose of these requests was to defend himself from the charges of libel with regard to the article “Faithfulness” (Vins’s work on the history of the persecution of Baptists in the USSR).[33] Vins also asked that a number of witnesses be called concerning other charges.

The court refused all these requests, Vins then declared that he rejected all three members of the court. The court refused to accept this declaration.

Vins declared that he did not recognize the present court’s jurisdiction and refused to participate in the trial: from now on he would not take part in the questioning of witnesses. When the judge asked: “Has the defendant any questions for this witness?” He replied: “I shall ask questions only in the presence of my lawyer, Alf Haerem.”

The basic charges were:

—organizational activity as Secretary of the “illegally constituted” Council of Evangelical Christian and Baptist Churches;

—organizing The Christian illegal publishing house;

—organizing the Council of ECB Prisoners’ Relatives;

—participating in the publication of the journals Bratsky Listok (Fraternal Leaflet), Vestnik Spaseniya (Messenger of Salvation), Yunost (Youth) and The Bulletin of the Council of ECB Prisoners’ Relatives;

—drawing up the Statutes of the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians and Baptists;

—participating in the compilation of an instructional book on biblical themes, The Shepherd’s Song;

—holding a meeting “of over 500 members of the illegal ECB movement … under the pretext of performing a marriage between Vera Pavlovna Shuportyak and V.P. Slinko, members of the Kiev CCECB Union of Churches”, on 24 August 1969;

—holding a meeting of ECB representatives in the settlement of Borovoye in the Kiev Region on 24 January 1970;

—holding a meeting on 10 July 1970 in Pushchevoditsky forest (near Kiev), where Vins gave a “speech-sermon, accompanied by loud singing which disturbed the peace of holidaying citizens”;

—publicizing the martyr’s death on 16 July 1972 of the Baptist I.V. Moiseyev, who died while serving in the army; the prosecution asserts that Moiseyev drowned while bathing in the sea;

—writing the articles “Faithfulness” and “Great Biblical Principles”.

During the trial 18 witnesses were called; after this Vins again took part in the trial and agreed to give explanations concerning the charges. However, Vins was unable to give his explanations in full because the judge constantly interrupted him,

Vins described the circumstances of his arrest; he stated that immediately after his arrest the KGB official Izorgin tried to negotiate with him about regularizing the relations between the CCECB and the State. Vins answered that he was not empowered to discuss any such matters with him. Later Vins stated that the Council of Churches was not ‘illegally constituted’, as it had been newly elected in 1969 at an assembly in Tula which had been permitted by the Tula City Soviet Executive Committee (Permit Number 2438-K).

Vins stated that during the preliminary investigation his cellmate Zborovsky turned out to be an agent provocateur and tried later to intimidate him. Because of this Vins could not play a normal part in the pre-trial investigation, Vins also referred to the fact that not long ago he had gone on hunger-strike for 12 days (after a meeting with his mother about a defence lawyer).

Vins quoted the following figures: from 1929 to 1941 25,000 believers (Vins evidently referred only to Baptists, Chronicle) were arrested; of these 22,000 died. He asked for the establishment of a commission consisting of representatives of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, the Council for Religious Affairs of the USSR Council of Ministers, the KGB, the Council of Churches, and the Council of Prisoners’ Relatives, with representatives of the world public also taking part. This commission would objectively examine the position of believers in the USSR. Vins again refused to take part in the trial — until such a Commission was formed.

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Then experts were questioned. In conformity with their official affidavit they declared that the literature produced by the ‘Christian’ publishing house included incitement to non-fulfilment of legislation on religion as well as incitement to anti-social behaviour.

The judge asked whether the experts had heard the tape-recording of a sermon by Vins, and whether they had found similar incitement in that.

The experts had listened to the tape but had not found it to contain such incitement.

The judge asked whether the experts had changed their opinion after hearing the witness. The experts had changed their opinion.

Did the experts agree to have this included in their affidavit? The experts agreed to this.

*

The fourth day of the trial: Vins read out a number of protests against the actions of the presiding judge.

Dyshel sharply interrupted him.

The procurator began his statement by saying that the Constitution of the USSR guaranteed freedom of conscience (Article 124) and that Lenin had written that the battle against believers must be conducted only on the ideological level. He asked that Vins be sentenced to five years in labour camp and five years in exile. The judge asked the defendant to make a defence speech.

Vins — I refuse, because my defence at this trial should have been conducted by the lawyer Alf Haerem. May my relatives and fellow-believers understand me correctly when I say I will be defended by Him in whom I believe, God, Jesus Christ,

The defendant was invited to make a concluding statement.

Vins – My Lord will say the last word for me, He who said of himself: 4‘I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”

The pronouncement of the verdict was postponed to the next day.

*

The sentence: Five years in a strict-regime labour camp and five years in exile, with confiscation of property.

Applause in the courtroom.

Judge (to the defendant) – ‘Do you understand the sentence?’

Vins – ‘Yes. Glory be to Jesus Christ! ’

Out on the street Vins’s friends were singing hymns.