The Trial of Shcharansky, 10-14 July 1978 (50.4)

<<No. 50 : November 1978>>

The case of Anatoly Shcharansky, charged under Articles 64 and 70 of the Russian Criminal Code, was heard from 10 to 14 July by the Russian Supreme Court’s Division for Criminal Cases, in the People’s Court building in the Proletarsky District of Moscow (Serebryanicheskaya Embankment 15/17). The composition of the court was as follows. Chairman, P. Lukanov of the Russian Supreme Court; People’s Assessors: L. Petrov and G. Samsonov. The Prosecutor was P. Solonin, Senior Assistant to the RSFSR Procurator. Two experts — Bulgakov and Buravov — took part in the court sessions. The court appointed defence lawyer was S. A. Dubrovskaya.


Anatoly Borisovich SHCHARANSKY was born in 1948. In 1972 he graduated from the Moscow Physical-Technical Institute and began work as a mathematical engineer in the All-Union Research Institute on Petroleum and Gas. In 1973 Shcharansky submitted his application for a visa to Israel. Since then he has been a “refusenik”.

He left his job and began to earn his living giving private lessons. Around 1975 he became an active member of the Jewish emigration movement. Shcharansky helped those who had been refused visas by interpreting at press conferences and meetings with foreign political and social activists. As a result, he became well-known to foreign journalists and diplomats as someone who had a good command of English and handled information responsibly. Shcharansky became a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group at its inception and played a consistently active part in its activities.

After the arrest of Ginzburg and Orlov and the emigration of Alexeyeva, Shcharansky continued to work intensively on the compilation of the Group’s documents and to organize press conferences. First in January and then in March Shcharansky was constantly followed by a group of KGB operatives. On 4 March 1977 Izvestiya (Moscow evening edition) accused Shcharansky of spying. On 15 March Shcharansky was arrested. During the investigation of his case, over 100 people were questioned (particularly refuseniks) in 20 Soviet cities. Nearly all of them either refused to take part in the investigation or described the accused as an honourable man and a law-abiding citizen. Witnesses confirmed that they had signed collective documents which were being used to incriminate Shcharansky. Many Soviet citizens signed group letters in defence of Shcharansky. The arrest of Shcharansky and the investigation of his case evoked an unprecedented number of protests from the Western public and Western political figures. (For a detailed account of the investigation of Shcharansky’s case see CCEs 44-48.)


Anatoly Shcharansky (b. 1948)

The trial opened at 10 am. The courtroom, which contained about 70 seats, was filled with people who had special passes and with operations men. The Procurator responsible for supervising the state security organs, M. Ilyukhin, was present. About 20 seats were empty. Beside each participant in the proceedings was a microphone and the trial was recorded on studio tape-recorders.

After establishing that the trial participants were present, the court turned to establishing the identity of the defendant. Without answering the Judge’s question, Shcharansky asked whether it was a closed trial — why were there no relatives or friends of his in the courtroom? The Judge replied that the defendant’s mother and brother had been summoned to the court as witnesses but had not appeared. Shcharansky contradicted him: “I have in front of me a list of witnesses — they are not on it.” He stated that he would refuse to take part in the trial proceedings until such time as at least one member of his family was present in the courtroom. The Procurator suggested to the court that the defendant’s father should be summoned. The Judge announced a break and sent the commandant to a nearby alleyway where the relatives and friends of the defendant had gathered. The commandant, finding that the defendant’s father was not in the vicinity of the court building, made some enquiries and brought the defendant’s brother, Leonid Shcharansky, back to the courtroom. L. Shcharansky was present during all the court sessions except the ones held in camera.

When the trial participants had been informed of their rights and duties and a number of other formalities carried out, Shcharansky requested permission to dismiss his lawyer.

The Judge commented that the defendant’s mother had been given time to choose a lawyer, but from December 1977 to June 1978 she had failed to do so; for this reason the investigative organs had engaged lawyer Dubrovskaya (CCE 48). The Procurator did not object to the defendant conducting his own defence and the court relieved Dubrovskaya of further participation in the case.

Having already assumed the function of defence lawyer, Shcharansky stated that during the year and a half which had passed since his arrest, he had not been allowed to elucidate his relatives’ position as regards a lawyer.

At this point the Procurator requested that the defendant’s mother, I. P. Milgrom, be called as a witness. Shcharansky objected that his mother had already refused during the pre-trial investigation to be a witness, seeing this as a way of stopping her attending the trial. The Procurator stated that Milgrom could tell the court about the defendant’s path in life. The court granted the Procurator’s request (Leonid Shcharansky shouted to his brother that their mother was standing outside the court building and was punished by being moved to the back row).

When asked whether he had any more requests to make, Shcharansky answered that when the case was being officially wound up he had submitted a 39-page list of petitions, but the Procuracy, after studying 51 volumes of case materials in four days, had refused all his petitions. The Procurator asked the court for a ten-minute break in order to study the list of petitions. After about an hour’s consultation, the court and the Procurator came to an agreement and it was announced that four documents were being added to the case: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference, the testimony given by witness L. Volvovsky during the pre-trial investigation (this had not been included in the case materials because Volvovsky had written a few friendly words to Shcharansky on the record) and a statement by the Central International Telephone Exchange that tape-recordings of A. Shcharansky’s international telephone conversations had been sent to the KGB. (Shcharansky had requested the inclusion of the tape-recordings themselves.)

The Indictment

The Trial