NEW YORK (Jul. 15)
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has personally asked the top prosecutor’s office in Moscow to review the case of Dmitri Berman, a 26-year-old-Jewish man who Soviet Jewry advocates say was falsely accused of the 1988 murder of a Moldavian soldier.
Gorbachev intervened at the request of Canadian Jewish businessman Albert Reichmann, who met with him last week, according to the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews in Washington, which quoted Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Vitaly Churkin,
The report was independently confirmed.
Berman has been staying at the Canadian Embassy in Moscow since January, after his case was reopened following an appeals court’s dismissal of charges against him.
Soviet Jewry groups, as well as the U.S. State Department, are giving the case high priority and viewing it as an act of anti-Semitic harassment.
The National Conference on Soviet Jews has said that “the evidence seems to be fabricated against Berman.”
And a state Department source said Berman’s name had been raised with the Soviets “at the highest levels.”
B’nai Brith Canada has urged Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to press the Soviets on the Berman case when the prime minister meets with Gorbachev in London this week.
Last year, an appeals court threw out Berman’s initial conviction for killing the serviceman, a murder that took place in the Ukrainian city of Nikolayev.
PREVENTED FROM MAKING ALIYAH
Berman’s family told the Union of Councils that in all, there have been nine trials against him. which were “convened and postponed because none of the witnesses showed up,” or for lack of evidence, said Kim Lamberty, the group’s assistant director.
In August 1990, the Ukrainian procurator’s office confirmed in writing that the charges against Berman had been dropped. He then applied to immigrate to Israel, along with his family.
In December, just days before he was scheduled to make aliyah, Berman was told the case had been reopened.
His documents, which he had surrendered for an expected full visa to leave for Israel, were seized by the OVIR emigration bureau in Nikolayev, and he was not permitted to leave the country, Lamberty said.
Berman fled to Moscow and sought the help of Union of Councils’ Moscow bureau.
The bureau appealed to Western embassies in Moscow for help. Berman went on his own to the Canadian Embassy, which offered him a place to stay, said Lamberty, who was working at the Moscow bureau at the time.
Since then, he has been awaiting what had been claimed was “new evidence” for reopening the case.
Lamberty said that all along, the evidence against him has been “really sketchy. They changed the facts around the murder several times,”
She said that Berman, a factory worker, had an alibi that placed him “at a completely different place. Then the officials said, Well, the murder actually took place a half-hour earlier.’”
Micah Naftalin, national director of the Union of Councils, who visited Berman at the Canadian Embassy, said that Berman had originally confessed to the crime, but “under drugs and beatings while he was in jail.”
Lamberty said the procurator’s office is now saying that “his alibi has disappeared, that the people who originally gave him an alibi have taken it back.”