Show Trial Scheduled for Azernikov; Two Riga Jews Stage Hunger Strike

Boris Azernikov, the 28-year-old Jewish dentist of Leningrad who was arrested Aug. 10 after applying for immigration to Israel, will be subjected to a Russian show trial, according to Jewish sources in Russia. Azernikov, who was detained on attempting to give the authorities the required ovir (affidavit) from abroad, is believed to be the first Soviet Jew to be arrested solely for applying for immigration to Israel. He was charged under Articles 70 and 72 of the code of the Russian Republic, pertaining to “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” and “anti-Soviet” organizational activity or membership. He was called as a witness in the Kishinev trial of nine Jews, but his testimony was not used. Russian Jewish sources also reported that three of the Jews convicted in the second Leningrad trial–Solomon (Shlomo) Dreizner, Grigory Ilya (Hillel) Butman and Mikhail Korenblit–have been transferred from their labor camp to a Leningrad prison preparatory to their being ordered to testify against Azernikov. But the sources said the three would probably refuse to do so.

On June 15, 1970, a few hours after the alleged Jewish attempt to skyjack a plane from Leningrad to Israel, Azernikov’s apartment and office were searched, even though he was in Odessa at the time. He was not arrested, but his fellow vacationer, Lev Naumovich Yagman, was, and was subsequently sentenced in Leningrad to five years for alleged complicity in the reputed plot, Azernikov was later kept in an isolation cell for three days and threatened with punishment ranging from 10 years in prison to death for treason. But the authorities could not link him to the alleged plot, and he was released. But he was watched carefully and questioned constantly by the authorities because he knew many of those arrested and he had Jewish materials in his home. Azernikov testified at both Leningrad trials, both times defending the accused. He was called to Kishinev, but his testimony was not used in the trial there. He applied for emigration in June, and was arrested Aug. 10, for no apparent reason other than his application and, according to sources, in reprisal for his trial testimony. Sources said Azernikov’s arrest presaged another, even harsher anti-Jewish policy by the Soviet authorities.

Meanwhile, two Jews are staging a hunger strike in Riga, Latvia, according to reports. Yerachamiel Trubeskin and Mina Yechielson were reported to have been outside the Riga Ovir since Sunday, in protest against what they call the Ovir’s refusal to grant them visas to Israel. In Kharkov, the Ukraine, yesterday, Soviet Jews were assailed for the second time in recent weeks in the evening newspaper Vecherny Kharkov. The author of both attacks, surnamed Soloviov, singled out Aleksander Gorbach yesterday as an example of an unworthy Soviet Jew who should be denounced by every Soviet citizen. Gorbach, a 35-year-old engineer, was fined 400 rubles ($444) at his trial last month for alleged participation in unlawful “private undertakings.” Gorbach is seeking to go to Israel. There has been no word on the appeal, reportedly scheduled for last Thursday, of Valeriy Kukui, sentenced to three years for alleged anti-Soviet activity.

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