Menu JTA Search

Report Confirms New Trial Scheduled; Four Jews Arrested Reported Released

The opening of a second trial of Jews in Russia at the end of this month, reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week, was confirmed today in a London Telegraph dispatch from its Moscow correspondent, Frank Taylor. He reported that according to informants the second trial will open Dec. 29 when “a number of people including Jews will be arraigned.” According to Taylor they were arrested last June 15 when an alleged plot to hijack a Soviet airliner was disclosed. The JTA reported last week that the second trial In Leningrad, would be followed late this month or early next year by third and fourth trials in Riga and Kishinev. Unconfirmed reports from other Western news sources today Indicated that one or more trials are being conducted concurrently with the trial of 11 in Leningrad on hijack charges. According to the sources, the trials have been held in absolute secrecy In several courts under different groups of judges. They are said to involve some 30 men and women rounded up by the Soviet secret police in a number of Russian cities within an hour of the alleged hijacking attempt last June 15.

Western newsmen have been barred from the trial that opened in Leningrad five days ago. Reports from there and from Moscow on the proceedings have been confused and contradictory, leading some observers to the conclusion that Soviet authorities are deliberately using “red herrings” to mislead the public abroad. Sparse facts have been picked up by various newsmen, presumably “leaked” from official sources. Some information has been obtained from Jewish sources. Certain Jews in Riga have reportedly been in telephone contact with the relatives of some of the accused in Israel. The information provided by them has not been confirmed. Some observers believe the local Latvian authorities in Riga permitted the Jews to telephone Israel in order to embarrass their Soviet “bosses.” Although many previous reports have indicated that anti-Semitism is worse in Riga than in most other Soviet cities, the Latvians are known to be chafing under Soviet control. According to some knowledgeable sources, the trial in Leningrad and those presumably to come are Intended to intimidate not only Jews but other Soviet minorities growing rebellious under Moscow’s rule. An example of conflicting reports emanating from the Soviet Union was a dispatch filed by United Press International correspondent Henry Shapiro in Moscow yesterday that four of the seven or more Jews among the 11 defendants in Leningrad have been released, presumably after pleading guilty to the hijack charges.

PROSECUTION AGREES TO DROP CHARGE THAT FIREARMS WERE TO HAVE BEEN USED

Shapiro cited statements from Soviet authorities but they contained no reasons for the purported leniency after the defendants allegedly confessed that they were working for “international Zionism.” The confessions were said to have been made by three of the defendants under persuasion by a fourth, Maj. Mark Dymshitz, who allegedly was to have piloted the hijacked airliner to Finland. A later report by Shapiro, supported by reported in the London press today, said the persons released were Dymshitz’s wife and two teen-aged daughters and an unidentified pregnant woman. The four women were not In the dock at Leningrad but are presumed to have been among the 34 Jews arrested and held Incommunicado since last June. Earlier reports said that the wives of several defendants had been offered freedom to emigrate to Israel without their husbands but rejected it. One unconfirmed report said Mrs. Dymshitz had reconsidered.

The Associated Press reported from Moscow yesterday that In a development “very favorable” to the IJ on trial in Leningrad, the prosecution agreed to drop the matter of firearms that were to have been used in the alleged hijacking. A home-made pistol and a pair of brass knuckles were reportedly found on the accused when they were arrested at Smolny Airport last June. The UPI reported yesterday that the Leningrad trial was attended by 100 relatives and friends of the defendants. But Shmuel Zalmanson, father of three of the defendants from Riga, said he was barred from the courtroom after traveling to Leningrad. He made that statement in a telephone call from Leningrad Friday to a brother in Israel. According to some Informants In Moscow, the Leningrad trial will wind up on Christmas day, next Friday. Press reports here said that Maj. Dymshitz told the Leningrad court in the course of his confession that he plotted to hijack a Soviet airliner in order to draw world attention to anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union and to demonstrate his disapproval of Moscow’s Middle East policy. He allegedly said that he persuaded the other defendants to buy tickets on the plane which he intended to take over and land in Finland. One report said that four other persons were arrested at an airport near the Danish border on June 15 where they were waiting for the Leningrad plane.

NEXT STORY