The case of Alexander Lavut (57.7)

<<No 57 : 3 August 1980>>

Fifty-one signatures appear under the appeal “Alexander Lavut Has Been Arrested”, issued on 5 May (he was arrested on 29 April 1980, CCE 56):

“… What crime has been committed by this wonderful, modest, hardworking man, who loves his country and has worked indefatigably for it over many years?

“The same as always: he defended the human and civil rights of his fellow-citizens; that is all. And with nothing more than the word of truth. He had no other weapon. Since 1968 Alexander Lavut has taken an active part in the democratic movement. With Tatyana Velikanova and Sergei Kovalyov, he joined the Initiative Group to Defend Human Rights; he collected, studied and publicized evidence of violations (if these rights, signed documents in defence of illegally suppressed prisoners of conscience, and tried, with other human rights activists, to gain access to the courtrooms where they were on trial. He defended the innocent, the unjustly convicted, people illegally deprived of their rights. And to this he dedicated all his so-called “free time” and all the warmth of his compassionate soul …

“The name of Alexander Lavut, whose persona! modesty matched his hard backroom work of collecting and circulating truthful information about violations of human rights, was not widely known. But today you are learning about him. For it is through prison cells that the best people in our country acquire this sad renown nowadays…

“We protest against the illegal arrest of Alexander Lavut!

“We protest against the fact that in our country, openness is declared a crime, and humaneness a vice. We protest against the selection* carried out by the punitive system: the best, most honest and kindest people are sent to prison, while the worst, most unscrupulous, inhuman and selfish people are given the right to decide the fate of other human beings.

“We demand the release of Alexander Lavut, a man one cannot help loving, and of whose friendship one can only be proud.”

*

On 9 June Investigator Yu. G. Zhdanov of Moskvoretsky district procuracy [in Moscow] interrogated Alexander Lavut’s former son-in law S. Chistikov. The latter gave detailed evidence; in particular, he listed people who had visited Lavut and confirmed that he had received some samizdat works from him. When Chistikov read the interrogation record he told Zhdanov that several answers had not been correctly recorded. The investigator replied that it “didn’t matter”. Chistikov agreed and signed the record.

On 11 June Zhdanov interrogated M. Martinson, whose home was searched on the day of Lavut’s arrest in connection with his case. Martinson told Zhdanov that Lavut had not given him anything to read, and when asked whom he had seen at Lavut’s home, he listed the latter’s relatives.

*

On the same day, on Zhdanov’s instructions, Investigator Novikov of the Moscow City Procuracy conducted a search at the home of Fuat Ablyamitov (CCE 51). An extensive private correspondence between Ablyamitov and Mustafa Dzhemilev, documents on the Crimean Tatars (consisting chiefly of an appeal in defence of M. Dzhemilev), and a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were confiscated. The first item recorded in the search record was a congratulatory telegram to A.D. Sakharov; the record contained 17 points altogether.

On 1 July Ablyamitov was interrogated in connection with the materials confiscated from him. Zhdanov asked about Ablyamitov’s acquaintance with Lavut, Ablyamitov’s attitude to Sakharov and to the “Jewish Question”, about Ablyamitov’s obtaining a job and his residence in Moscow (Ablyamitov is a neurologist and works in a first aid station). During the interrogation, the investigator asked in particular:

“Why do you write ‘Crimean’ Tatar? Are there really differences between Tatars? What would happen if all the Tatars were moved to the Crimea at once? There wouldn’t even be enough work for them. Lavut is a Jew, as you know, yet he’s involved in the problems of the Crimean Tatars.’

Ablyamitov told the investigator that Lavut had given him the impression of being a cultivated and intelligent man, and that he had great respect for Sakharov, because the latter demanded the abolition of the unconstitutional ban on the residence of Crimean Tatars in the Crimea (there are at present about 50,000 Crimean Tatars in the USSR).

At the beginning of the interrogation the investigator said he wished to return the things confiscated during the search to Ablyamitov, but at the end he changed his mind saying: ‘Such things shouldn’t be kept, they should be thrown away!” When Ablyamitov asked: “And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights too?”, the interrogation was closed.

On 16 July at about 3 pm a certain Sharov, who showed a “Moscow Criminal Investigation” identification card, came to Ablyamitov’s place of work and had a chat with him “on the instructions of a senior official”.

Sharov said in particular:

“We can’t open the borders for everyone wishing to leave the USSR. … What attracts you so to the Crimea? … Don’t you know yet that Sakharov’s wife is Jewish, that she has connections with Zionist organizations and has an enormous influence on her husband?

“… In 1937 totally innocent people were not arrested: they were at least 46-60% guilty … Haven’t you hidden some more forbidden literature? Don’t you circulate it? Aren’t you a member or a leader of an illegal organization? … Sakharov has even sold some of our secrets abroad… He can’t be arrested, because they’d make a martyr out of him straight away, and all hell would break loose around the world. We can’t go that far; we have to take public opinion into account…

“Sakharov’s people think we killed Bogatyrev. but he was seriously ill, you know, he didn’t have to be killed: a brick fell on his head completely by chance, from a roof …How can we let everyone read the materials of the 20th Party Congress? They might not understand them correctly.”

Sharov threatened Ablyamitov and warned him not to meet foreigners during the [1980] Olympics.

Ablyamitov said that he respected Sakharov, Lavut and Mustafa Dzhemilev and did not believe they had committed crimes; that his father, for example, was killed in 1937 but was rehabilitated in 1957; that it was quite permissible to meet foreign journalists, both while the Olympics were not in progress and otherwise; and that questions of the Cult of Personality should be publicized correctly, then they would be understood correctly.

*

On 12 June, a search was carried out in Belogorsk (Crimea) at the home of Eldar Shabanov (CCE 53). A letter from Italy which came by post, an envelope containing two post-cards from West Germany, a customs declaration from a parcel from the USA, letters in the Tatar language, an old map of the Crimea with Tatar place names, and an address book were confiscated. After the search, which was conducted on Zhdanov’s order by investigator Vasilenko of the Belogorsk district procuracy, E. Shabanov was taken away for interrogation. Vasilenko said that, during a search of Lavut’s home, the record of a previous search at Shabanov’s home and his address had been confiscated. Shabanov replied that he did not know Lavut, neither did he know how his papers had ended up in his possession.

On 16 June, searches were carried out in Uzbekistan at the homes of Izet Khairov (CCE 31, 52), of his sisters, of Reshat Ablayev (CCE 54) and of Grigory Alexandrov. In the searches, poems, appeals and letters were confiscated. From Alexandrov a copy of his book I will lead you to abandoned habitats and a poem about Musa Mamut (CCE 51) were also confiscated. Khairov and Ablayev were given chats after the searches; Alexandrov was interrogated in connection with the case of Lavut, at whose home, according to the investigator, many papers belonging to Alexandrov had been found.

*

On 13 June, Yu. Shikhanovich (CCE 2, 27, 30, 32, 55) was invited for a “chat” at the Moscow KGB. His former investigator, Colonel V. K. Galkin (in 1972-4 he was a Lieutenant-Colonel), and KGB officer O. P. Novikov, who conducted surveillance of Shikhanovich after his discharge from psychiatric hospital in July 1974, reproached Shikhanovich for not having kept the promises he made in 1973 when he was in the Lefortovo KGB Investigations Prison.

Galkin also had in front of him an “Undertaking” written by Shikhanovich in January 1980 at a police station (CCE 56). “Yury Alexandrovich, when are you finally going to stop working on the Chronicle?” asked Galkin. (This question apparently arose from the fact that on 29 April, during a search of Lavut’s home, issue CCE 55, containing handwritten notes by Shikhanovich, was confiscated.) Galkin said that he would not like to meet Shikhanovich “in another capacity”. Shikhanovich replied that he would think about what he had heard.

*

On 23 June colleagues at the Central Geophysical Expedition (CGE), where Lavut worked before his arrest, sent an “Open Letter in Defence of Alexander Pavlovich Lavut” (11 signatures) to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, to the editors of Pravda and to the USSR Procurator-General:

“…We work with Alexander Pavlovich and have known him for many years. He is an exceptionally decent man, very modest, kind and compassionate; lie does not suffer injustice and is always ready to help others and defend them. He is organically incapable of tolerating falsehood, and therefore to imagine him in the role of a disseminator of slander and lies is simply inconceivable.

“A. P. Lavut’s activities in defence of civil rights in our country are conditioned by his profound understanding of his civic duty and in no way defame the Soviet political and social system.

“We protest against the judicial persecution of Alexander Pavlovich Lavut and demand his immediate release.”

The letter was signed by G. Stepanets, V. Kronrod, A. Romanenko. A. Deyeva, L. Andreyeva, L. Rudakova, N. Mikhaleva, G. Poletayeva, T. Gerus, L. Tertitsky and V. Brudno.

On 27 June, the Director of the CGE, Kashek, was summoned to the Moskvoretsky district procuracy; starting from 9 July each of the signatories of the letter in Lavut’s defence was summoned several times, as well as several other colleagues of his. All of them were interrogated by Zhdanov. He asked them to describe Lavut’s character and questioned them as to who was on closest terms with him, who visited his home, and whom and what they saw there. Several questions concerned the letter in defence of Lavut and the collection of money for his family. Zhdanov asked who the author of the letter was, who passed it around to be signed, why they signed it, who collected the money and how much was collected, and who passed the money on to Lavut’s family, Jn some cases the investigator resorted to threats. He told one person that he would probably have to find another job and asked another whether she wasn’t afraid for her children. At the same time, he promised that “no one would find out” about the evidence they gave. All of them described Lavut in the most favourable terms; there was no compromising evidence against him.

On 29 July, the Procurator of Moskvoretsky district of Moscow, Molochkov, replied to the CGE members’ letter: the investigation of Lavut’s case “is being conducted objectively; there are no grounds for changing the type of physical restraint imposed on him”.