The Trial of Grigory Goldstein, 20 March 1978 (49.2)

<<No 49 : 14 May 1978>>

On 20 March the People’s Court of the Lenin district in Tbilisi examined the case of Grigory Goldstein, a member of the Georgian Helsinki Group (for the beginning of the case see CCE 48.4). Judge Nakashidze presided over the court.

Grigory Abramovich Goldstein was charged under article 234, part 1, of the Georgian Criminal Code, because ‘despite being warned several times by the Lenin district ROVD, he has not been engaged in socially useful work and for a long time has led a parasitic way of life.’ The indictment stated that in October and December 1977 the accused was several times assigned work as an engineer at the Scientific Research Institute for Machine-Building Technology, but he had categorically refused this work.

The charge was based on the evidence of a local policeman, a part-time staff-member of the Lenin district OVD, the chairman of the co-operative housing association to which Goldstein belonged, and his neighbour at home. This evidence concerned the warnings about obtaining a job which the policeman had issued to Goldstein in the presence of the other witnesses.

The witness L. D. Gershgorin gave evidence that since autumn 1975 Grigory Goldstein had regularly taught his son, a schoolboy, and other children, mathematics and physics. He did not accept money for these lessons.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Goldstein told the court that he had been engaged in scientific research without interruption, that articles of his had been published during the period when he was not doing contract work. Goldstein explained that he could not accept the job assigned him at the research institute as secret development work was being done there and he did not want to extend the length of his residence in USSR by incurring a new "security bar". The accused said he had been living on the money he had accrued from his work before he had been dismissed. His wages had been 400 roubles per month, apart from which he had other official sources of income; moreover, he was a bachelor and his expenses were few.Goldstein told the court that he had been engaged in scientific research without interruption, that articles of his had been published during the period when he was not doing contract work. Goldstein explained that he could not accept the job assigned him at the research institute as secret development work was being done there and he did not want to extend the length of his residence in USSR by incurring a new “security bar”. The accused said he had been living on the money he had accrued from his work before he had been dismissed. His wages had been 400 roubles per month, apart from which he had other official sources of income; moreover, he was a bachelor and his expenses were few.

In its verdict the court did not take account of this part of Goldstein’s testimony. There was no reference to the fact that for 17 years the accused had worked in Soviet institutions, that he was a Doctor of Technical Sciences, that he had inventions and published works to his name.

The court found Goldstein guilty in that ‘for a long time he has not been engaged in socially useful work and has led a parasitic existence’.

In his final speech Goldstein said:

“The meaning of today’s trial lies in the way it shows how a Jew, whom the authorities have for many years refused permission to emigrate to Israel, in reality possesses no rights…

“Scattered around the world, the Jewish people, throughout the many centuries of their history, have been subjected to a variety of forms of persecution on foreign soil. Today we have a reborn national state of which I have the honour to be a citizen. My goal is to be repatriated from the USSR to Israel. Unfortunately, I am regarded in the USSR as a possession of this country, and not only am I forbidden to leave it, but I am also persecuted in various ways.”

The court sentenced Grigory Goldstein to 1 year’s imprisonment in an ordinary-regime camp — the maximum penalty under article 234, part 1. He was taken into custody in the courtroom.

*

The court summons had been served on G. Goldstein four days before the court session and he had not had time to engage a barrister. He refused the defence counsel appointed by the court. All the petitions and protests made by the accused were rejected by the court. In particular, Goldstein twice challenged the whole composition of the court, stating that the case was not being examined objectively.

On 6 April the Tbilisi City Court rejected his appeal and left the sentence as it was.

On 8 April G. Goldstein was dispatched to the Arkhangelsk Region, even though one day previously the deputy chief of investigation prison No. 1, Lieutenant-Colonel Bezhanashvili, said that he could be sent only to the settlement of Tsulukidze (in western Georgia) where there was a camp for those with sentences of up to three years’ ordinary regime.

Members of the Moscow Helsinki Group and Jewish activists from Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev have issued a declaration in defence of Goldstein. They stress that Goldstein has been sentenced for the sole reason that he was not working under the terms of a contract. This is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.