The Trial of Maresin, 14 April 1976 (40.6)

On 14 April 1976 the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR heard the case of Valery MARESIN, charged with refusal to give evidence (Article 189 of the Lithuanian SSR Criminal Code). The hearing was presided over by A. Jankauskas, a member of the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR, the People’s Assessors were V. Tereshina and M. Baronas; the Prosecutor was senior counsellor of justice Kuznetsov.

There were only a few people — friends of the defendant — in the small courtroom.

Maresin immediately stated that he did not intend to answer any of the court’s questions. He refused the services of a lawyer.

Earlier he had written a declaration about his refusal to participate in the legal proceedings (CCE 39). In this he had asked, on the basis of Article 246, paragraph 2, of the RSFSR Criminal Code, that he should not be called to appear in court. Maresin received the reply that there was no such Article in the Lithuanian SSR’s Criminal Code.

The indictment stated:

At the pre-trial investigation, on 12 February 1975, and at the court hearing in the case of [Sergei] Kovalyov, on 10 December 1975, Maresin gave evidence that on 9 October 1974 he and Yu.P. Dobrachev had gone together to the laboratory of the Experimental Veterinary Institute, in order to photocopy A. Schweitzer’s book Culture and Ethics for Dobrachev. Making use of the fact that there was no one else in the laboratory, Maresin began to photocopy Solzhenitsyn’s book The Gulag Archipelago (pts 3 and 4), published abroad, which he had brought with him in his briefcase, together with Schweitzer’s book and other works. While copying the Gulag Archipelago Maresin was discovered by laboratory worker V. N. Chikina and V, A. Gorbatov, the head of the laboratory, who confiscated the said book from him.

Warned that he would be held criminally responsible for refusing to give evidence, under Article 182 of the RSFSR Criminal Code and Article 189 of the Lithuanian Code, Maresin refused, during the pre-trial investigation and at the court hearing … to testify as to the person from whom he had obtained the confiscated book The Gulag Archipelago. V.M. Maresin had admitted that he was guilty, in part, of the charge against him and had testified that during the entire pre-trial investigation and the trial of S.A. Kovalyov he had refused to give evidence about the person from whom he had obtained the book, not, however, from any desire to mislead the investigation or the court but acting from personal moral considerations.

In his declaration of 9 February 1976, addressed to the Procurator of the Lithuanian SSR, V. M. Maresin had renounced his testimony and refused to participate in the criminal case.

The indictment further makes reference to the evidence of Gorbatov, Chikina and Dobrachev.

The questioning of witnesses began.

The witness Gorbatov stated that Dobrachev had come to him the day before, had asked for permission to photocopy some literature and had promised to repair some of the laboratory equipment. Dobrachev had made such requests before; however, Gorbatov had not allowed him to take charge of the photocopying apparatus but had given this job to a senior laboratory worker. When Dobrachev began to repair the equipment, Gorbatov took the book, leafed through it and having made sure that it had been published in the Soviet Union, though only for academic libraries, he had given permission for it to be copied.

Sometime later, Chikina rang him and informed him that Maresin had photocopied one book and was now copying another. Gorbatov went to the photographic laboratory. When he discovered the book by Solzhenitsyn, he confiscated it. Later Dobrachev came in and declared that he had not known of Maresin’s intentions, that Maresin had acted dishonestly and that he was embarrassed by his behaviour. He asked for the book to be returned. Gorbatov did not return the book but handed it over to the KGB. According to Chikina, Maresin and Dobrachev had given her the photocopy to check after copying the book by Schweitzer but had themselves gone on photocopying. Following Gorbatov’s instructions, she had rung him and told him what was going on.

Dobrachev testified that he had intended to make a copy of Schweitzer’s book and some articles. However, he had not managed to complete his work, as he had been called out for an examination. When he returned, he was told about Maresin’s attempt to copy the Gulag Archipelago. He did not know who the book belonged to. Maresin had explained what had happened by saying that there had been no obstacles in the way of the task, and the book had just been to hand.

Prosecutor: And if he had told you that he was going to copy this second book? Would you have agreed to help him?

Dobrachev: Probably not…

Prosecutor: What if it had been leaflets?

Dobrachev: I’m a Soviet person… You should ask me concrete questions!

After the witnesses had been questioned, the judge read out an extract from the record of Kovalyov’s trial. According to this extract, Maresin had testified in court that he was familiar with Kovalyov’s letter to Andropov, in which Kovalyov asks for the return of a book by Solzhenitsyn, belonging to him, which had been confiscated from Maresin.

“I refuse to answer one question, but I don’t refuse to give evidence as a witness … I neither confirm nor deny that I got the book from Kovalyov. Kovalyov may have his own views…”

The record also reported the interrogation of Maresin by investigator Istomin on 12 March 1975. Istomin alleged that Kovalyov’s wife, L. Boitsova, had already given evidence stating that the book belonged to Kovalyov. Maresin did not confirm Boitsova’s evidence, but later, in a conversation with her, he had found out that she had never given such evidence. A character reference from his place of work was then read out (it mentioned Maresin’s hard-working nature and also said: “was several times elected chairman of the trade union committee, is a member of the trade union committee … but not active in extra-curricular activities”).

The prosecutor’s speech

“… There are no easy criminal cases … behind each case stands a Soviet citizen, whose fate is being decided … The defendant secretly copied a book … he got into a laboratory by dishonest means … The book The Gulag Archipelago is of an anti-Soviet nature. We know this from the press and we shall not discuss it here …The defendant has not denied the facts of the case, although he later renounced his evidence.

“But we shall proceed not from the whims of the defendant, but from the proven facts … The book belongs to Kovalyov. Kovalyov has confirmed this at the investigation and in court. There is no need to call Kovalyov as a witness. He himself spoke eloquently about it in court. He wrote a letter, in which he asked for the book to be returned. From the relations between Maresin and Kovalyov, we cannot doubt that the defendant obtained the book from Kovalyov. Maresin should have given evidence about this in court, but Maresin has declared, daringly and tactlessly, “I shall not tell you!” This declaration is tactless and meaningless, the more so as Maresin cannot either lighten Kovalyov’s sentence or make it more severe.”

The prosecutor then depicted Maresin’s outward behaviour in an unfavourable light — that is, his refusal to answer questions from the court. Going on to the question of the degree of punishment, he remarked that the defendant’s crime was not a serious one, and therefore was not severely punished by the law, but it hid within itself a social evil: “suppose everyone were to refuse to give evidence: How could we carry on the struggle?” The character reference from Maresin’s place of work spoke only of his narrow administrative capabilities. It did not speak of character, of his moral nature, nor of his moral suitability. However, we knew from the Kovalyov case that anti-Soviet conversations were carried on in the laboratory.

The prosecutor demanded the maximum penalty provided for in the corresponding article, six months’ corrective labour. He stated that he would request the court to send a special court order to Maresin’s place of work. “I suggest that his work as a senior research officer cannot be continued … He cannot work in such a position after this kind of behaviour… Such employees must be respected not only for their hard work, but also for their political qualities. After all, they’re not ordinary workers … I ask that the defendant’s unsuitable behaviour be made the subject of a special court order …”

After an interval of two hours, the sentence was announced: 6 months’ corrective labour, to be performed at his place of work with a deduction of 20 % of his wages. The legal costs, 53 roubles 40 kopecks, were to be paid to the State by the defendant.