LONDON (Sep. 28)
Illya Rips, a Latvian Jewish student who was said to have set himself on fire in Riga last April, will face a court Oct. 2 but only as a formality to confirm medical findings that he is mentally ill, it was reported here today. Charges of anti-Soviet activities against Rips have been dropped, according to a Moscow journalist, Pyotr Petrov, who was quoted by the Sunday Observer. Mr. Petrov said that contrary to previous reports, the youth would not be tried for protesting against Soviet restrictions on Jewish emigration.
According to accounts at the time of Rips’ reported self-immolation by two Americans who purported to be eye witnesses, the student denounced Soviet treatment of Jews and ran aflame across a Riga square shouting that Jews must be allowed to go to Israel. These sources said Rips was set upon by Soviet sailors who extinguished the fire and then beat him until he was hustled off in a police car. He has reportedly been confined in a prison hospital ever since.
The Observer’s correspondent Peter Reddaway said a Moscow underground journal called “A Chronicle of Current Events” claimed that it was now evident that while Rips may have protested against the Soviet treatment of Jews, his main public protest was against the occupation of Czechoslovakia. The journal said that Rips has been classified as mentally abnormal by doctors and will be confined on that pretext because it is difficult to prove any intent on his part to subvert the Soviet system. According to the Latvian criminal code, attempted suicides, particularly attempts carried out in a manner likely to injure other people, must be investigated by a court. The court is expected to confirm the medical findings and Rips is likely to wind up in a psychiatric hospital for “compulsory treatment,” the Observer said.