The Trial of Kirill Podrabinek, 14 March 1978 (49.1)

<<No 49 : 14 May 1978>>

On 14 March, the people’s court of Elektrostal (Noginsk district, Moscow Region) examined the case of Kirill Podrabinek (b. 1952), charged under article 219, part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘… the keeping, obtaining and manufacture … of firearms (other than smooth-bore hunting weapons) or ammunition … without obtaining the necessary permission.’) Judge Kernosov presided over the court, Procurator Chizhov spoke for the prosecution, and lawyer Plotkin defended Podrabinek.

About 40 friends and acquaintances of the accused came to attend the trial. Before it began everyone who wanted was allowed into No. 2 hall. After some time, it was announced that a different case was to be examined there. However, policemen were already standing in front of the door of No. 1 hall in a thick cordon.

To the Judge’s question, ‘Accused, do you have any objection to the composition of the court?’, Podrabinek replied:

“Yes, I object to the composition of the court as a whole. My case has been fabricated by the KGB, of whom I am a hostage. As a protest I have been on hunger-strike from the day 1 was arrested until today. Apart from this, none of my friends has been allowed into the courtroom. I do not trust a single court in the Soviet Union.”

The court rejected K. Podrabinek’s challenge.

According to the indictment K. Podrabinek was charged with ‘the illegal obtaining of a pistol for underwater fishing and of ammunition’. The reference was to an underwater fishing pistol and 127 small- calibre cartridges, confiscated on 10 October 1977 during a search at the railway crossing where K. Podrabinek was then working, and to two small-calibre cartridges confiscated on 14 October 1977 during a search at K. Podrabinek’s flat (CCE 47). In the indictment the following was also said:

“The ballistic examination established that the underwater fishing pistol (of P P O make, registration No. 898, of the smooth-bore type) contained a ‘zhevelo’ capsule with five grams of gunpowder and a small-calibre cartridge. The pistol is not a type of firearm and is not suitable for firing in the air, but in certain circumstances single shots in the air are possible … The investigation established that the pistol was obtained by the accused in 1977.

“The accused Kirill Podrabinek refused to give evidence during the investigation, did not answer questions and did not sign protocols.”

To the Judge’s question, ‘Do you plead guilty?’ K. Podrabinek replied:

“I do not plead guilty. I refuse to answer any of the court’s questions, because this case has been fabricated by the KG B in reaction to my brother’s refusal to emigrate. I have been taken hostage in order to force my brother to leave.”

After this K. Podrabinek did not answer any more questions.

K. Podrabinek’s colleagues, his father P. A. Podrabinek, his brother Alexander Podrabinek, L. Ivanova (CCE 47) and T. Yakubovskaya (CCE 47) appeared as witnesses in the trial.

A. Podrabinek stated during questioning:

“… in an official discussion a representative of the investigative organs told me that in his opinion there were circumstances which could serve as grounds for closing the criminal case against my brother… I hope that the court will summon this man as a witness … His name is Belov. He is Chief of the Moscow and Moscow Regional administrative department of the KGB. He told me this during a discussion on 4 January this year. He also told me that an indispensable condition for the closing of the case would be the agreement of my brother Kirill, my father and myself to emigrate from the Soviet Union … I also want to add that I consider the charge brought against my brother to be false and to have been instituted exclusively on the initiative of the KGB…

“Further, I wish to add that the organization Amnesty International has taken up the defence of my brother… a member of the House of Representatives of the American Congress has taken up his defence … 46 signatures have been collected …

“Further, l wish to add some words about the court proceedings. In violation of the Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure, the trial has been virtually closed. In the court-room people unknown to my brother, who have no close relationship with him, have been admitted. Nonetheless, the wife and family and friends of Kirill Podrabinek have been forced to remain outside the courtroom. This is a violation of the right to an open judicial investigation.”

Having made this statement, A. Podrabinek refused to answer the questions of the Judge.

The Procurator demanded that K. Podrabinek be sentenced to three years in camps. In part of his speech he said:

“All the arguments and statements put forward by the accused Podrabinek and his brother Alexander have absolutely no relation to the case in question, to the case being examined today and, in particular, to the charge …

“The talk about allegedly planted cartridges (the search on 14 October 1977 — Chronicle) — this is childish prattle. There are no grounds for believing it. What point would there be in planting the cartridges during the second search when this could have been done during the first?”

The barrister in his speech turned the court’s attention to the fact that the accused’s possession of the pistol and cartridges found in the signal hut was not proven; pistols for underwater fishing are on open sale, no special permission being required to own one; acquisition of one cannot be regarded as illegal; the pistol is not itself a firearm; the pistol was handed over to the ballistic examination with the capsule and the cartridge inside it, but in the record of the search of 10 October 1977 it was not noted whether or not the capsule and cartridge were in the pistol; thus, who put them in the pistol, and when they did so, is unknown and has not been investigated by the court. At the end of his speech the barrister said:

“There is no evidence — direct or indirect — by which to assert the guilt of my defendant. On these grounds I consider It necessary to close the case instituted against him and to release him from custody.”

In his final speech K. Podrabinek said:

“As I have already said, this case has been fabricated by the KGB. It has a hidden political motivation which the KGB do not want openly to admit. This is, essentially, a political case, but it is passed off as a criminal one. This is a well-tried method of the KGB. It was applied, for example, against Lev Alexandrovich Rudkevich (CCEs 45, 46) and Felix Serebrov (CCE 47). The authorities are afraid of dissenters and present them as supposedly criminal offenders.

“You consider this case to be an open one, but you have done everything in your power to avoid any openness.”

The court sentenced Kirill Podrabinek to 2.5 years in ordinary-regime camps. The Moscow Regional Court did not change the sentence following the appeal of barrister Plotkin.

The beginning of the sentence (i.e., the date of arrest — see CCE 48.7) was 29 December 1977.