From 3 to 7 July Tashkent City Court, presided over by I. M. Yusupov, examined the case of Viktor Gennadievich BEDAREV (b. 1949) and Pyotr Vasilyevich RAKSHA (b. 1947). They were charged under Article 192-1, pt. 2, of the Uzbek Criminal Code (“resistance to a police officer or a people’s vigilante” [druzhinnik]) and Article 194-1 (“attempt on the life of a police-officer or people’s vigilante”).
Seventh-Day Adventist Church
According to the indictment, on the night of 14-15 March 1978 Bedarev drove Raksha in his car to 56 Soyuznaya St. and waited for him in the car. Raksha went up to the house, and when the vigilante Isamukhamedov tried to detain him to find out who he was and why he wanted to enter the house, where a search was being conducted, Raksha started to run away. Isamukhamedov and other vigilantes and police-officers caught up with him, but with the help of Bedarev, who had run up to him, Raksha managed to struggle free and hit Isamukhamedov in doing so. Then Raksha and Bedarev got into the car, and, ignoring cries and gunshots, drove off. As they moved off, they tried to run over police-officer Safin, who was blocking their way, thus making an attempt on his life.
No. 56 Soyuznaya St. is where V. A. Shelkov’s daughter lives. It is where Vladimir Andreyevich Shchelkov [note 1] was arrested (CCE 49.14) and a four-day search, headed by Procurator Ponomaryov, was conducted. The search began on 14 March: it is mentioned that during the search someone rang the bell at the gate and the detectives, in pursuit of the visitor, opened fire. Bedarev was arrested there and then (CCE 49). Raksha was arrested at the end of April. Procurator Ponomaryov also headed the investigation into the case of Raksha and Bedarev. Prior to the trial Bedarev was detained in an MVD investigation prison; Raksha, in a KGB investigation prison.
Testimony of the accused
At the trial Bedarev said that on the night of 14-15 March he did indeed give someone a lift. That person was not Raksha, whom he knew very well, but a stranger.
This person asked him to wait near the house on Soyuznaya St. Soon after he heard cries for help, and when he ran up, he saw people in plain clothes twisting his passenger’s arms. He helped him struggle free and they started to run away. Bedarev said that he pleaded guilty only to not stopping his car at the demand of a man in a police-officer’s uniform; he had not been certain that he was really a policeman. There was no intent, in his actions, to run him over. Furthermore, the police-officer had stood to one side of the car, which had only just started off.
P. Raksha said practically nothing at first. When the judge asked whether he pleaded guilty and where he was on 14 March, he replied that whatever he said would have no influence on the court’s decision. “Who interrogated you?” the judge asked. Raksha answered that when he was seized in the street, he was taken to Ponomaryov and then questioned by Investigator Nepomnyashchy and again by Ponomaryov. He was threatened with either 15 years or the death penalty, and all the time led from one cell to the next. He also said that in an ‘identification’ parade he was placed between two men who were very much unlike him in appearance (one of them was 65 years old). When he was identified as the criminal, Raksha declared to the investigator that this was a lie: the latter again threatened him with execution.
Raksha did not answer the court’s question concerning his relatives or any other people. But when he saw his mother-in-law in the courtroom, he apparently stopped worrying that he would endanger his relatives by mentioning them and their addresses in his testimony, and said that on the night of 14-15 March he had not been in Tashkent at all. On 13 March he and his wife and three children flew to Kiev to take part in his sister-in-law’s funeral, which was to take place in the village of Bezuglyaki, Skvirsky district, Kiev Region. Raksha’s defence counsel submitted to the court numerous written items of evidence of people living in the same village as Raksha’s relatives; these testimonies confirmed that he stayed there from 13 to 20 March; they had been authenticated by the village council.
However, the investigation had submitted information from Tashkent Airport stating that neither P. Raksha nor his wife flew from Tashkent on the flight indicated. The defence counsel, pointing to the dubious nature of this information, which bore no issue number or signature, lodged a petition that the court go to the airport to study the relevant documents on the spot. The court rejected this petition.
Five witnesses — police and vigilantes — were called to testify in court. On the first day none of them appeared. On the second day three of them testified. Police-officer Simonov, who was keeping watch at Shelkov’s house during the search, did not himself, as it transpired, see the accused’s actions, but knew about the course of events second-hand from fellow officers. Witness Khamidov and the victim Isamukhamedov gave confused, contradictory testimonies and, when answering Bedarev’s questions in particular, they mixed up the concrete details of the night-time incident. Pointing to Raksha at the trial, Khamidov shouted “Who’s on trial here — me or him?” In addition, police-officer Safin and another witness failed to appear at the trial.
Prosecution and Defence
In the “House of Justice”, where the trial was being held, Procurator Ponomaryov made some appearances. On 6 July he arrived with about 20 colleagues, who started openly following the accuseds’ relatives. On the same day one of Raksha’s relatives was detained. Ponomaryov took her to the procuracy and subjected her to an interrogation.
Raksha’s counsel spoke in his defence speech about the gross violation of the proper identification procedures in relation to his defendant and the unreliability of the documents stating that Raksha’s family had not flown from Tashkent. He emphasized that the residents of Velikopolovetskoye village who gave written testimonies were outside Raksha’s circle of family and friends, and that their testimonies were impartial.
Bedarev’s defence counsel drew the court’s attention to the fact that his defendant could not have known that the people who detained his passenger were police and vigilantes, and that his actions in helping a man who had been attacked by strangers were, therefore, justified.
In his final word Pyotr Raksha said that the Holy Scriptures contained numerous examples of innocent people sentenced for their religious faith, but the world discovered the truth later. “So do I also believe that the time will come when my innocence will be revealed. I do not despair. The Lord will help me not to despair.”
The verdict stated in part:
“The arguments of the accused Raksha stating that on 14 March 1978 he could not have committed the crime in question because he was in Velikopolovetskoye village, Skvirsky district, Kiev Region, on that day, at the funeral of his sister-in-law N. Belik, are unfounded, fabricated by him with the aim of evading criminal responsibility. They have also been disproved by the testimonies of victim T. K. Isamukhamedov and witness Khamidov, who confirmed in court that they firmly identified P. V. Raksha as the criminal.
“Although Raksha asserted that on 13 March 1978 he flew by plane to Kiev, a memorandum from the Tashkent Airport Passenger Service dated 5 July 1978, reference no. 175, shows that flight 5041 of 13 March 1978 on the Tashkent-Kiev route had 115 passengers, among whose ‘control tags’, filed with the flight documents, no ‘control tag’ was found under the name of P.V. Raksha.
“The testimonies of witnesses submitted by counsel for the accused P. V. Raksha, stating that on 14 March 1978 P. V. Raksha attended the funeral of Nadezhda Belik. and the photograph of Raksha at the graveside cannot be considered convincing evidence by the court, as these testimonies were collected by interested parties, and the photograph does not indicate the date on which it was taken.”
The court found Bedarev and Raksha guilty and sentenced them to 6 years in hard-regime camps.
In August Raksha’s wife and mother, with a letter of inquiry from their legal adviser in their hands, appealed to the Tashkent Airport authorities for fresh documentation. The numbers of Raksha’s ticket and that of his wife were listed in the flight passenger-register, but the control tags’ from their tickets had disappeared from the files, although the ‘transport tags’ for their youngest children, entered on the parents’ tickets, and the control tag from their seven-year-old son’s child’s ticket had been preserved. (Thus, according to the documents submitted to the court as incriminating evidence, the children flew by themselves, unaccompanied by adults.)
Officials in the airport records office said that someone from the investigating organs had rummaged through the files and they were angry at this stealing of ticket-tags. P. N. Semyonova, senior dispatcher of the transport section, had received instructions from her bosses to issue the relevant papers, and had burst out sobbing: “You’ll get me put in prison!” She declared that her bosses did not know what was going on and that an assistant republican procurator had warned her in person: “Don’t give anyone any papers!” After many visits and requests Raksha’s wife and mother-in-law eventually obtained the necessary documents and a copy of the passenger register.
On 5 October, the Supreme Court of the Uzbek SSR examined the appeal of Bedarev and Raksha. Bedarev’s sentence was left unchanged. Raksha’s sentence was quashed, and the case referred back for re-examination. Raksha remained in custody.
The trial of Raksha and Bedarev is the subject of “Open Letter No. 3”, dated September 1978, of the All-Union Church of True and Free Seventh Day Adventists (Nos, I and 2 are about the arrests and searches in March and April 1978).
In the letter (the factual parts of which are used above) there is special stress on the fact that the organizers of the frame-up regarded the case of Raksha and Bedarev as having great propagandistic importance: by portraying the two men as terrorists who had attempted to murder a police-officer, they could ahead of Shelkov’s trial — stir up public opinion against the Adventists.
Procurator Ponomaryov, as the ‘Letter’ relates, said: “We won’t be trying Shelkov for his religious beliefs; no, it’ll be for common crimes.”
 Vladimir Andreyevich SHELKOV (1896-1980) was head of the Seventh Day Adventist church in the USSR from 1949 onwards. Sentenced to 5 years imprisonment in 1979, he died in a strict-regime camp in Yakutia in January 1980 (CCE 56.2).