Repressive Measures against the Helsinki Groups: Georgia, 1977-1978 (48.4)

<<No 48 : 14 March 1978>>

The Case of Gamsakhurdia, Kostava and Rtskhiladze.

On 25 January 1978, Victor RTSKHILADZE was re-arrested. He had been arrested in April 1977 together with Zviad GAMSAKHURDIA and Merab KOSTAVA but was released him four days later after signing an undertaking not to leave Tbilisi (CCE 45).

The KGB is questioning people who have borrowed books to read from Zviad Gamsakhurdia. The investigators are making use of Gamsakhurdia’s notebook.

In February and March 1978 leaflets appeared in Tbilisi University and in the Polytechnic Institute calling for people to speak out in defence of the arrested members of the Georgian Helsinki group.

Below are excerpts from the text of a leaflet that was scattered near the University on 22 February 1978:

“Just as in other ‘union republics’, along with the struggle for human rights we have other national problems. For it is clear to everyone that our national rights are being mocked, the riches belonging to our nation — its historical monuments — are being destroyed, the Georgian language is in effect persecuted, the Georgian church, our nation’s spiritual buttress, is in a state of decline, and Georgian culture is trampled underfoot.

“It was precisely these problems that were broached by members of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Georgia and the Helsinki group, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Merab Kostava and Viktor Rtskhiladze.

“These people felt the nation’s pain as their own and courageously raised their voices against the flouting of human and national rights…

“Subsequently they [the authorities, Chronicle] tried to declare quite healthy people mentally ill and even to hide them away in a psychiatric clinic. For ten months now, in defiance of all legal norms, Z. Gamsakhurdia and M. Kostava have languished in KGB dungeons. These crimes reached a climax with the arrest of yet another member of the Helsinki group, Viktor Rtskhiladze, on 25 January of this year. This fact is all the more scandalous inasmuch as V. Rtskhiladze has heart trouble and was only recently discharged from hospital. He life is in jeopardy. By this latest arrest the authorities have shown their own helplessness and fear in the face of free thought!

“V. Rtskhiladze spoke out bravely in defence of our historical monuments, in defence of the Meskhetian Georgians deported from Georgia in 1944…Georgians, we have been silent long enough! Let us take courage and have our say! Believe that the words of each one of us is of tremendous importance!

“We must not condemn to death people who have sacrificed themselves for our sake. We must not allow the authorities to flout the sacred rights of man…”

The Case of Grigory Goldstein

On 17 January 1978 Grigory Goldstein, a member of the Georgian Helsinki group, was arrested. A charge of ‘parasitism’ (Article 234 of the Georgian Criminal Code) has been brought against him.

Grigory Abramovich GOLDSTEIN was born in 1931. He is a physicist, a Master of Technical Sciences. Until December 1971 he held the post of laboratory head in the Tbilisi branch of the Mendeleyev All-Union Research Institute of Metrology.

In December 1971 Goldstein handed in his documents for emigration to Israel, was dismissed from his job and since then has not worked anywhere, which is what is being held against him. All Grigory Goldstein’s attempts to get a job in his profession were unsuccessful, and in the job placement commission they only offered him work in secret establishments. In February 1972 KGB Colonel Zardalishvili told him that in five years’ time they would allow him to emigrate. In September 1972  Goldstein renounced Soviet citizenship and in October of the same year became a citizen of Israel.

Grigory’s brother Isai Goldstein is also a refusenik. The Goldstein brothers (CCE 37) are members of the Georgian Helsinki group (CCEs 44, 46). Criminal proceedings have also been instituted against Isai Goldstein for ’parasitism’; the charges have not yet been presented to him.

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On the day of his detention Grigory Goldstein was led from his house in handcuffs and taken like this to the district polyclinic. It was suggested to him that he undergo a medical examination. Goldstein refused; to this effect two documents were drawn up — one while he was still at his flat, the second at the clinic. The second document later disappeared from the case materials, but a certificate on his state of health turned up (’practically healthy’).

While under arrest Goldstein refused to talk at interrogations. On 25 January 1978, the measure of restraint was changed: they released Goldstein after he had given a written undertaking not to leave town.

In February Grigory Goldstein wrote several statements to the Georgian Procuracy and the USSR Procurator-General. Referring in his statements to current legislation, including the International Covenants, he writes of the illegality of the criminal proceedings brought against him. He also puts forward an argument refuting the charge that he ‘lived on unearned income’: until his dismissal he had received a high salary (400 roubles a month) and had been able to accumulate savings.

In March 1978, Goldstein wrote a testimony (12 pages) in connection with his case, in which he says in part:

“Both the case materials and the attitude of officialdom display tendentiousness concealed behind deliberate legal illiteracy…

“KGB officials have told me and other ‘refuseniks’ that their actions are always dictated solely by the interests of the Soviet state, and that violations of legality are justified if they are committed in the interests of the state…

“The decision on how to deal with me has already been taken by the KGB and will be carried out.”

On 8 March Andrei Sakharov spoke out in defence of Goldstein. In an open letter to the International Labour Organization, the Federation of American Scientists and world public opinion, Sakharov draws attention to the whole practice of convicting people for parasitism, which is widely used by the authorities against persons they dislike. He insists that this article in itself stands in flagrant contradiction to international conventions on the prohibition of forced labour.