The Trial of Gajauskas, 12-14 April 1978 (49.5)

<<No 49 : 14 May 1978>>

From 12 to 14 April the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR in Vilnius heard the case of Balys Gajauskas (b. 1926), who was arrested on 20 April 1977 (CCE 45). The judge was Radziunas, the prosecutor was Bakucionis, and defence counsel (appointed by the court) was Gavronsky.

From 1948 to 1973 Gajauskas served a 25-year sentence in camps. At this trial he was charged according to article 68, part 2, of the Lithuanian SSR Criminal Code ( = article 70 of the RSFSR Criminal Code). This was the essence of the charge (in the words of the verdict):

“In 1974 the accused obtained and stored the following works, with the intention of disseminating them: Bolshevism (in Polish), A. Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago (volume I, in Russian) and the book God Today (in Lithuanian), also the booklets Chronicle of the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR (in Russian) and God and Country (in Lithuanian). The accused gave these anti-Soviet works to L. Stavskis to read and personally translated the first volume of the Gulag Archipelago into Lithuanian, with the aim of disseminating it…

“Since 1974 Gajauskas had been obtaining and storing documents issued by leaders of the bourgeois nationalist gangs which were active in Lithuania in the post-war years, as well as other material linked with this subject; for example — documents of the so-called Union to Struggle for the Freedom of Lithuania; the regulations of the Lithuanian Army of Liberation and the Hawks organization; instructions, decrees and records; and also the Bulletin of the U S F L (the Union to Struggle for the Freedom of Lithuania), the Bell of Freedom, the Partisan, the Free Word (in Russian), and other material… All this material was ruled to be anti-Soviet by the court…

“On returning from imprisonment, B. Gajauskas systematically gathered information about persons of Lithuanian nationality who had been sentenced for especially dangerous crimes against the state. From the day he was released, the accused compiled lists of persons in Lithuania who had been arrested because of their participation in anti-Soviet movements. Through his associates S. Kovalyov and A. Ginzburg the accused passed on these lists for publication in the illegal journal A Chronicle of Current Events and also to anti-Soviet publications abroad.

Gajauskas pleaded not guilty. He insisted that, to begin with, the actions he was accused of had not been proved, and, secondly, that these actions were not crimes. For example, the book Bolshevism had turned up in his house while he was serving his earlier sentence; he had not given it to anyone. While reading the Gulag Archipelago, which had been given to him by Simas Kudirka (CCEs 20, 33, 34), he had written out some extracts and made notes on them, as was his wont; there was no basis for concluding that he was going to translate it.

At the pre-trial investigation he had indeed testified that he had passed on material about the partisan movement to Stavskis, but this evidence had been obtained from him under pressure (the investigator had threatened to interrogate his sick mother and he had been afraid she would die); he now renounced it.

The list of Lithuanian political prisoners confiscated from him was a list of friends and comrades from his 25 years of imprisonment; he had had nothing to do with any publication of the list in the West.

During the pre-trial investigation about 40 people had been interrogated (CCEs 45, 47, 48.15). Only one of them — Stavskis — had given evidence that had been used by the prosecution.

In addition to Stavskis, the court questioned Gajauskas’s 77-year-old mother, A. Kiliciauskiene, and three other women: O. Grigoliuniene (CCE 48.15), J. Burbuliene (her husband A. Burbulis is in Camp 19 — CCE 46) and Mrs Cidzikiene (mother of P. Cidzikas — CCEs 34, 39, 46).

Stavskis testified that he himself had taken the book Bolshevism from Gajauskas’s house; he repeated that Gajauskas had brought him material about the partisan movement.

Mrs Grigoliuniene, Mrs Burbuliene and Mrs Cidzikiene described the material aid Gajauskas had rendered them (the Chronicle does not know if this aid formed part of the charges against Gajauskas).

The defence counsel asked the court to change the charge against Gajauskas to article 199-1 of the Lithuanian SSR Criminal Code (=article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code). The prosecutor asked that Gajauskas be sentenced to 7 years in camps and 5 years in exile.

After a long interval, the court announced its verdict, declaring Gajauskas to be an especially dangerous recidivist, and sentenced him to 10 years in a corrective labour colony of special regime and 5 years’ exile.

Apart from the witnesses, the court allowed Gajauskas’s fiancée Irena Dumbryte (CCE 48.15) to be present, as well as her sister Laima Sulskiene (CCE 48.15) and Antanas Terleckas (CCEs 47, 48.15). The remaining seats were occupied by invited guests.

The day before the trial, KGB officials made sure that the Kaunas post-office did not deliver letters and telegrams addressed to I. Dumbryte. During the trial KGB officials visited many workplaces. They checked duty rosters in the cadres’ sections and told the administration to maintain especially firm discipline. On 16 April A. D. Sakharov issued this appeal:

“To the world public

“In defence of Balys Gajauskas

“Balys Gajauskas, formerly a prisoner in Stalinist and post-Stalinist camps, which he entered in 1949 at the age of 23 and from which he was released in 1974 after serving a 25-year term, has been sentenced again in Vilnius to 10 years’ imprisonment in special-regime camps and 5 years’ exile.

“The arrest and condemnation of  Gajauskas is an act of extreme cruelty, clearly illustrating the current actions of the repressive organs. The court, as in a number of other cases, was not ashamed to declare a previous sentence passed by Stalinist judges to be an aggravating circumstance. Gajauskas was arrested during interrogations connected with the Ginzburg case. This gives us reason to regard his arrest as one of the actions taken against the Aid Fund for Political Prisoners and their Families. Both while he was still imprisoned (as he has been for most of his adult life) and during his short spell of freedom, Balys was greatly respected and loved by his friends for his honesty, courage, principled behaviour and kindness.

“I call on all honest people throughout the world, all those who care about observance of human rights, on alt organizations which are responsible for contacts with the Soviet Union, Western government leaders and all Lithuanians abroad — to speak out in defence of a generous and brave man with a tragic destiny — Balys Gajauskas.”

*

During the investigation Gajauskas’s mother and fiancee received about 10 letters from him. After the trial Irena Dumbryte had a meeting with Gajauskas. On 20 April Gajauskas was sent off to the camps of Mordovia.