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Azernikov Goes on Trial; Conviction Could Mean Life Imprisonment

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Boris Azernikov. a 26-year-old Jewish dentist who apparently committed no offense under Soviet law beyond persisting with his visa application to go to Israel after it had been rejected, went on trial in Leningrad today on charges of anti-Soviet activities and anti-Soviet propaganda which are crimes according to Articles 70 and 72 of the Russian penal code. They carry penalties of up to life imprisonment. Jewish sources in Russia informed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by phone today that the proceedings opened in Leningrad with all of the trappings of a political show trial. Three Jews convicted in the first Leningrad trial in Dec. 1970–Mark Dymshitz, Lev Korenblit and Hillel Butman–have been brought to Leningrad from forced labor camps to testify against Azernikov.

Jewish sources in Leningrad expressed confidence that they would not incriminate an innocent man for the sake of pleasing the KGB, the Soviet secret police. Two other witnesses named Chernukhin and Slipenko have been called by the prosecution. Azernikov is being defended by A. Goldenberg, a Jewish lawyer. Azernikov was born in Kalinin and was graduated from the Kalinin Medical Institute as a dental surgeon and stomatologist in 1969. He reportedly worked in various Russian towns including Turkmenia in Siberia and Tishno, near Leningrad. Hi is unmarried and his closest relatives are his parents and a sister.

According to Jewish sources, KGB agents searched Azernikov’s home on a warrant last Aug. 10 and found a volume of Bialik’s poems, a Hebrew calendar and a copy of a letter from a Jewish group protesting the authorities’ refusal to permit them to emigrate to Israel. These items are apparently the basis of the charges against Azernikov. Azernikov was arrested on his way to work on the day of the search. Jewish sources established that he was interrogated 25 times since his arrest. Azernikov applied for an exit visa in 1970 which was dented. But he continued to apply. Jewish sources said.

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