The Trial of Pyotr Vins, April 1978 (49.4)

<<No 49 : 14 May 1978>>

On 6 April the people’s court of the Podolsky district in Kiev sentenced a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, Pyotr Vins (b. 1956), under article 214 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code (“the leading during a long period of time of a parasitic way of life”) to one year in an ordinary-regime camp.

Pyotr’s grandfather, Baptist preacher P. Ya. Vins, died in a camp in 1943. His grandmother, L. M. Vins, was sent to Siberia; from 1964 to 1967 she was in camps (in CCE 48 the dates of her imprisonment and the article of the Criminal Code she was sentenced under are given incorrectly); recently, she has been working actively for the Council of Baptist Prisoners’ Relatives. Pyotr’s father, secretary of the Baptist Council of Churches G. P. Vins, has been arrested several times; in 1975 he was sentenced to 5 years’ camp followed by 5 years’ exile (CCE 35).

In February 1977, at the height of the KGB’s attacks on the Helsinki Groups, P. Vins became a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group (CCE 44). In his final speech at the trial, he said that KGB officials had even then threatened to crush him.

Soon afterwards Vins was dismissed due to ‘reduction of staff’ (he worked as a lighting-technician in the Palace of Culture). Frequent attempts to find work in his particular field came to nought. For two months Vins worked unloading goods for a shop. However, his state of health did not permit him to continue this physically arduous work.

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P. Vins decided to emigrate. In the months preceding his arrest he petitioned for permission to leave the USSR on the invitation of relatives in Canada.

On 1 December 1977 the police warned Vins that he should find work within a month.

From 8 December 1977 until 6 January 1978 P. Vins was under administrative arrest (CCE 48). From 8 to 30 December P. Vins was on hunger-strike.

On 13 February 1978 P. Vins returned from Yakutia, where he had gone to visit his father and to receive his consent to his departure abroad. This consent, authenticated by the camp administration, was received.

On 15 February Vins was arrested (CCE 48.3). Soon afterwards 38 people appealed to the Procurator of the Ukrainian SSR demanding that P. Vins be released.

The trial arranged for 28 March did not take place on that day ‘in connection with the non-delivery of the accused to the court’. (At this time there was a group of American congressmen in the USSR who intended to visit Kiev at the end of March.)

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On 29 March Lyubov Murzhenko was arrested and detained for ten days (see “Arrests, Searches, Interrogations”, CCE 49.7). On 31 March P. Vins’s friend Pyotr Draga was arrested (for ‘foul language’ and ‘disturbing the public peace’) and detained for 16 days, during that period he went on hunger-strike.

On the morning of 6 April, ‘on suspicion of stealing’, Valery Nadyuk was detained at his home — he was one of those who had presented himself as a defence witness (he had been accepted for the job from which not long previously P. Vins had been dismissed due to ‘reduction of staff’). In the evening, when the trial had finished, this ‘suspicion’ disappeared.

At the entrance to the court-building one other would-be witness — Doctor of Medical Sciences Vladimir Malinkovich, who had examined P. Vins after 6 January, was detained and taken to a police station. P. Vins’s defence barrister, N. A. Shafransky, petitioned that Malinkovich be called as a witness, but the court rejected this petition.

Outside the court-building Ya. Borodovsky and Andrei Tverdokhlebov (the latter having come from Moscow) were also detained. At the end of the trial they were released. Several times attempts were made to detain P. Vins’s friend Grigory Tokayuk (CCE 48), but people standing nearby prevented this.

The block in which the court-building was situated had been cordoned off since the morning by the police and KGB; traffic in the street was halted. Only Pyotr Vins’s relatives were admitted to the courtroom, which had been filled ahead of time. However, when P. Vins’s sisters tried, as they entered the hall, to hand the chairman of the court a declaration about the suppression of publicity, they were quickly taken to a police station.

Vins refused to give evidence in court, stating that the whole trial was illegal.

Barrister Shafransky, who had been appointed by the court, indicated numerous circumstances proving the unobjective character of the evidence, and petitioned for the case to be referred back for further examination; but the court rejected his petition. The court also rejected the petitions of the barrister that a series of documents, which might correct this lack of objectivity on the part of the investigation organs, be ordered and filed.

Apart from P. Vins’s mother, eight witnesses were admitted into court. They confirmed the charge of ‘the parasitic way of life’ of Vins with the following evidence: ‘I saw him going for walks’, ‘He dressed well’, ‘He carried a bag’, etc.

In his final speech Pyotr Vins said that the trial was a logical continuation of the persecution of senior members of his family.

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At the end of April the Kiev City Court examined the appeal of barrister Shafransky, who had asked, in view of the incomplete and one-sided nature of the evidence and court investigation, that the sentence be repealed and the case be referred back for further investigation. The appeal noted among other things that in the court’s verdict the period of P. Vins’s detention under administrative arrest ended on 23 December. The second period of 15 days which P. Vins also served almost in full had been ignored by the court.

The barrister also indicated that in the case materials P. Vins was called ‘practically fit’, although in his childhood he had undergone serious operations, the military recruitment office had taken him off its register as a result of his poor health, and during his administrative arrest medical aid had to be called for him several times.

The City Court did not alter the sentence imposed in the case of P. Vins.

On 14 May P. Vins was sent to a camp. The previous day KGB Major Berestovsky interrogated him in connection with the case of L. Lukyanenko. Vins was asked who was the author of Memorandum No. 2 of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group (CCE 45).