The Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet “replies”, December 1972 (28.8)

to a Letter from 273 Jews

<<No 30 : 31 December 1973>>

The Chronicle has the texts of two “information bulletins” circulated in Moscow in late December. A condensed summary of the first bulletin is given below. The text of the second is given in full.

February 1971 protesters outside the USSR Supreme Soviet

[BULLETIN No. 1, a summary]

On 11 December 1972 a letter was sent to the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, calling for Jews convicted [and imprisoned] for demanding the right to emigrate to Israel should be amnestied as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the USSR. The letter was signed by 273 Jews from nine cities. No answer was received.

On 18 December, the day of the opening session of the Supreme Soviet, Jews from various cities tried to assemble in the reception room of the Presidium and get clarification on the Presidium’s position.

On the morning of 18 December, 10 men in Moscow were subjected to preventive arrest: Lev Libov, Vladimir Prestin, Boris Ainbinder, Victor Polsky, Valery Krizhak, Mikhail Babel, Yury Vasserman, Grigory Volokh, Lev Gendin and Anatoly Novikov. Another Muscovite Natan Faingold was arrested at the Leningrad airport.

At 11 am forty-nine Jews had assembled in the reception room of the Presidium. At 3 pm they were arrested and taken to the sobering-up station at the Voikovskaya Metro Station. At 9 pm the Moscow women among those arrested were released with orders to report to their district police stations the next day. The others, including 13 Muscovites, were driven off, but it was not known where to. Officials at the sobering-up station stated unofficially that those who were from other cities had been sent back to their places of residence.

*

On 19 December all 13 Muscovites were sentenced by the people’s court of the Kiev district to 15 days of detention. What had happened to those from Leningrad, Riga and Kiev became known only on 22 December, as the local authorities refused to give any information. Two persons from Kharkov, [Iona] Kolchinsky and [Konstantin] Skoblinsky were taken to Kharkov, where they were sentenced to 15 days of detention.

On 22 December 1972 it was learned that of the 11 persons from Leningrad, one woman with an infant in arms had been released after four days of detention. Another woman, who suffered a heart attack while in jail, was released on the 10th day. The others, including six women, were sentenced to 15 days of detention. Most of the Leningrad detainees were relatives of convicted persons. They included Eva Butman, Julia Mogilever, Julia Dymshits and Mikhail Goldfeld. [note 1]

All seven of those from Riga were sentenced to 15 days of detention. One of them, Regina Braun, was in her seventh month of pregnancy. In addition to them, [Vladimir] Gelfandbein and Mikhail Kuzinets of Riga were also sentenced to 15 days.

The Kievans Yury Soroko, Alexander Feldman and Zinovy Melamed, who were given 15 days, were confined in a punishment cell. Yu. Soroko has bronchial asthma, A. Feldman has a stomach ulcer, and Z. Melamed’s mother was near death at the lime.

Irma Berenshtein, aged 56, and Victoria Poltinnikova, from Novosibirsk, were both sentenced to 6 months of corrective labour [without confinement].

Not one of the nine Muscovite women released previously reported to a police station. On 20 December policemen came to their homes and took away those they found at home. Each of them was fined 20 roubles.

At the Moscow office of OVIR [Visa and Registration Office], three Jews declared a hunger strike by way of protest. They were arrested. The man in this group was given 10 days detention; the two women were fined 30 roubles.

*

During these days, the police demanded of Jews who wished to leave the USSR that they sign an undertaking not to leave their city. In Kharkov OVIR Chief Davydov told the Jews that they did not have the right to leave the city — such were his instructions from the government.

Bulletin No. 2

As has already been reported, 62 Jews from seven cities in the USSR were arrested in Moscow on 18 December 1972, the day of the opening session of the USSR Supreme Soviet, and three days before ceelebrations of the 50th anniversary of the formation of the USSR began. Eleven of the 62 were arrested in the morning at their homes, the others in the Presidium building and on the street.

Many violations of the law and of human dignity were committed in the course of the arrests, the convictions, and the confinements in jail.

1.

After gaining entry to the apartments of the Jews by deception or force, the agents of the KGB and MVD, employing a lie, stated that they were inviting the person in question to a talk at the district police station. They also presented false summonses. Thus V. Polsky was served with a summons signed by a police chief and dated 18 December 1972, but bearing a postmark dated 17 October 1972 (!)

None of the persons subjected to preventive arrest was taken to a district police station. Instead, all were taken to the station number 22 and then to jail.

2.

Since no explanation was given for the confinement, the Jews demanded to see the procurator. Their demand to meet the procurator was refused and no reason was given. “You can lodge protests after you are released.” This was the answer from the head of the jail in Yegorevsk, who thus violated the article of the Code of Criminal Procedure which stipulates that persons can be detained for more than 72 hours only with the permission of the procurator.

3.

In violation of paragraph 15 of the regulations governing confinement in investigation prisons, the Jews were denied their right to file written complaints with administrative and public organizations. The head of the jail in Yegorevsk replied, “Yes, we are violating the regulations, but those are our orders.”

When they Jews protested by pounding on the doors, they were dragged forcibly to individual isolation cells by the prison guards.

4.

According to Article 90 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a person who has been detained must be released if no charges are brought within 10 days. The Jews were held in the jail for 13 days with no charges being brought. The head of the jail in Volokolamsk acknowledged that this was a violation of the law but said that he had orders which for him were more important than the law. On the 11th day the Jews in the Volokolamsk jail demanded their immediate release since no charges had been brought. In response to this they were confined in punishment cells and isolation cells. Crude force was used, and arms were dislocated. The isolation cells measured one meter square and had a bench 30 centimetres wide.

After spending two hours in isolation cells, three persons – Libov, Volokh and Gendin – were transferred to punishment cells, where they remained until their release (two and a half days). Krizhak was put in a solitary cell; Ainbinder spent 10 hours in an isolation cell and was then transferred to a solitary cell. Neither the punishment cells nor the solitary cells had mattresses, blankets or pillows; and it was cold sleeping in them. While Volokh was in his punishment cell, his hand was badly hurt. When they heard this, Libov and Gendin (who were in adjoining cells) pounded on the door, demanding a doctor. As a result, all three were handcuffed with their hands behind their backs and kept that way for three hours.

5.

When the Jews were released from jail, the authorities refused to give them any documents showing they had been arrested and confined. This was a clumsy attempt by the authorities to make it impossible for the Jews to file complaints about their arrests and demand that the reasons for them be explained. (But protocols of personal searches are available.)

6.

Although some of those arrested had gastric disorders, the administration of the prison in Volokolamsk deprived them of their right to purchase supplementary food items to the extent of 10 roubles, reducing that sum fivefold. The commandant stated that he had instructions not to issue the food they demanded (cheese, eggs).

7.

The representatives of authority did not conceal their hatred toward the arrested Jews, Thus the KGB lieutenant who at station number 22 had been named as Novikov, while accompanying the Jews from Volokolamsk to Moscow, said that he would gladly have shot all seven of them if he had not been afraid of being held liable. Another MVD officer told Gendin in the prison: “I’d like to hang you myself.”

Such expressions would have done credit to any concentration camp of World War II.

Conditions of Confinement

for Those Sentenced To 15 Days Imprisonment

Moscow: Matrosskaya Tishina Prison

The cells were in an unsanitary condition: bedbugs, fresh paint giving off an acrid odour, no ventilation. Toilet articles – soap, tooth powder, etc – were not issued for a week. In this connection the administration referred to the “regulations on conditions of confinement ” but refused to show them.

Regimen of confinement: no exercise periods, no bed linens, warm food every other day, no parcels of warm clothing. Effectively no medical care given to sick persons (except to [Ida] Nudel).

Sometimes the prisoners were given old medication unfit for use, which provoked allergies after being taken. Even before the hearing the prison administration knew that we would be sentenced to detention, and had, in advance, prepared dinner for the new arrivals, according to a statement by Major Polyakov.

Leningrad: The Prison on Kalyaevsky St.

Those sentenced to 15 days detention first had their fingerprints taken. They slept on the floor without beds and without quilted jackets. Food every other day; no medical care, although some of them were sick: Julia Mogilever had flu, a temperature of 39 [102 Fahrenheit] and an attack of a liver ailment; Moisei Goldfeld, 60 years old, had heart attacks.

On 23 and 24 December a hunger strike was held in protest against the sentences handed out at the Leningrad trial [of Jews exactly two years earlier].

Riga: Holding Cells at “Dubulty” rail station (25 kilometres from Riga)

Regina Braun, in her eighth month of pregnancy, was kept the entire 15 days on the floor, without a bed. Margarita Shpilberg spent three days in solitary confinement. Yefim Fridman fasted 13 days as a protest against his illegal arrest.

Kiev: Lukyanovskaya Prison

The arrested Jews spent the entire 15 days in punishment cells, in violation of the regulations on confinement, together with criminals who came and went. They slept on the floor as there were no benches or cots. Yury Soroko had flu and asthma but received no medical care. No exercise periods. They were taken out once a day to clean the toilets.

In Kharkov K. Skoblinsky, who had fallen ill and had a high temperature, was denied medical care and medication.

*

This is an incomplete list of the violations of the regulations on confinement, and the ill-treatment of Jews who are being persecuted for their expressed desire to go to Israel and who are striving to exercise, in conformity with the law, their right to repatriation.

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NOTE

[1] Relatives of Gilel Butman, Vladimir Mogilever, Mark Dymshits and Anatoly Goldfeld. On their trials see CCE 17.6 and CCE 20.1.