LONDON (Sep. 21)
Soviet authorities have decided to put on trial Illya Rips, a 20-year-old Jewish student from Latvia who set himself on fire last April reportedly because he was denied an emigration permit to go to Israel. According to Lajos Lederer, writing in the Sunday Observer, Mr. Rips’ trial was scheduled to have begun in a Riga criminal court yesterday.
Mr. Lederer said the trial was viewed as a warning to other Soviet Jews who demand the right to emigrate. Rips has been charged with anti-State activities. Soviet authorities claimed that his attempted suicide by burning stemmed from “his deranged mind since early childhood.”
The Rips affair was brought to light by eye witness accounts that reached Western countries last spring. The accounts said that Rips drenched himself with kerosine in a Riga square and denounced Soviet repression of Jews and denial of their right to emigrate. The witnesses said he was caught by passing Soviet sailors who extinguished the fire and then beat him. Shortly afterwards he was hustled away by secret police. He has been held incommunicado ever since.