NEW YORK (May. 11)
The Soviet press agency, Tass, announced in Moscow that the nine Jewish prisoners in Leningrad were formally charged today with “activities hostile to the Soviet Union.” according to reports received here. Eight of them were charged with having been accomplices of the nine Jews convicted in Leningrad last December for allegedly trying to hijack an airliner last June 15. Two of the current defendants, Grigory liya (Hillel) Butman and Lev Leibovich Korenblit, were reportedly accused of a direct attempt to hijack two Soviet airliners. Tass did not say they were charged with treason in addition to “hostile activities,” but reliable unofficial sources said they in fact were. The Soviet news agency said the defendants had received “considerable sums” from abroad to finance their “hostile activities,” and that they in turn had “smuggled slanderous information abroad” using tourists as contacts.
Tass singled out J. Dinerman and Company of London as an alleged sender of “valuable parcels” to the alleged agitators. The British Trade Development Office here described Dinerman as a small firm of “general merchants.” A spokesman for the New York office of Tass refused to confirm the reported charges in Moscow to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. JTA sources in London said conviction on a charge of anti-Soviet activities carries a maximum penalty of 7 years’ imprisonment, while conviction for treason carries the death penalty. According to one source, a charge of intent to commit crimes against the state – a more serious charge than anti-Soviet activities – was dropped. The eight defendants charged with complicity in the alleged June 15 hijacking attempt in Leningrad were said by Jewish sources to have been in Riga or Odessa at that time. The trial was open today to immediate members of the defendants’ families, but closed to the press.