NEW YORK (May. 12)
Leon Uris’ “Exodus,” a stolen mimeograph machine and a subversive known as “The Groom” are among the matters at issue in the new Leningrad trial, according to reports today from reliable Jewish sources. The sources, providing details on the proceedings on the first day of the trial on Tuesday beyond those already reported, said that the charges against the nine Jewish defendants included their alleged distribution of “Exodus” and of a book on Jewish history by a writer named Ranan, The mimeograph machine was alleged to have been stolen for use by the Jews in disseminating anti-Soviet propaganda. “The Groom” was alleged to be the code name for defendant Mikhail Korenblit in the first draft of last June’s alleged hijacking attempt at the Leningrad airport, the reputed plot itself being known as “The Wedding.” One of the defendants, 38-year-old Grigory Ilya (Hillel) Butman, admitted complicity in the alleged hijacking try and pleaded for mercy from the court, it was reported late yesterday afternoon by Tass, the Soviet news agency, in statement distributed overseas but not within the Soviet Union.
According to Tass, Butman admitted conspiring with Maj. Mark Dymshitz and Edvard Kuznetsov, who were convicted in Leningrad last December in the alleged hijacking attempt, and with Israeli authorities in carrying out his “criminal actions.” Sources said this was the first time the Soviets have formally implicated the Israeli government in anti-Soviet activities. Tass confirmed that two of the defendants in the newly opened trial, Butman and Mikhail Korenblit, 33, were charged with treason under Article 64A of the Criminal Code for allegedly “preparing the seizure of a passenger plane in order to flee abroad.” They and the other seven defendants were also charged under Article 70 (“Anti-Soviet Agitation and Propaganda”), Article 72 (“Organizational Activity Directed to Commission of Especially Dangerous Crimes Against the State and Also Participation in Anti-Soviet Organizations”), Article 89 (theft of property) and Article 189 (concealment of knowledge of criminal acts).
The Jewish sources said Dreizner and Mogilever confessed. Tass said Viktor Shtilbans and one of the Korenblit brothers confessed. The Jewish sources said Viktod David Boguslavsky protested the charges against him vehemently. The trial, in a courthouse on Sontanka Street in Leningrad, opened at 9 a.m. yesterday. The interrogation of Butman began at noon and continued into the evening. In attendance were approximately 150 persons–15 of them relatives of the accused, admitted by special pass, and most of the remainder security officers, the Jewish sources said. A group of Jews protested to the Supreme Soviet over the barring of foreign newsmen. Some friends of the defendants complained that their permission to attend was not honored at the courthouse door. The appearance of the defendants was said to be poor. Tass identified the defense attorneys as Simeon Kheifetz, Ilya Braiman. Fyodor Rogistavisky, Yuri Nabuziner and Viktor Cherniak, the last-named one of Leningrad’s most prominent lawyers, Jewish sources said at least Kheifetz and Braiman are Jewish. The sources added that three friends of the accused–identified as Friedman, Geldfeld and Mackle4–were removed from their jobs and ejected from Leningrad to prevent their aiding the defendants. The sources said Geldfeld was sent to the Ural Mountains and the other two to Siberia.