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Zalmanson Sentenced to 10 Years; Termination of Trial of Nine Seen As Ploy

January 8, 1971
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A Leningrad military tribunal today handed down a 10-year prison sentence in the case of Lieutenant Wolf Zalmanson, it was learned this afternoon. The 31-year-old Jewish army officer and engineer from Riga, was under court-martial on charges of treason and desertion for participating in the alleged hijacking last June of a Soviet airliner. Fear had been expressed that Lt. Zalmanson would receive the maximum sentence of death if he was found guilty. Eleven others, including nine Jews, arrested with him at Smolny Airport on June 15, were tried separately and sentenced to severe prison terms. Lt. Zalmanson was tried separately because of his military status. A knowledgeable source noted that Lt. Zalmanson escaped the death sentence because Soviet authorities did not want to spark another worldwide public outcry similar to that which occurred when the death sentences were handed down in the case of two Jews in the Leningrad 11 trial. These sentences were commuted to severe prison terms.

Meanwhile, the reasons for the sudden and unexpected termination of the second trial of nine Jews, which opened yesterday and halted after 10 minutes, continues to baffle and intrigue observers of the Soviet scene. Some Western sources reported the relatives of the Leningrad Nine had been told by court officials that the trial was postponed because one of the defendants, Lev Naumovich Yagman, 30, was ill with influenza. There were other reports, however, that the trial may have been cancelled because the Soviet authorities did not want another expression of worldwide protest. Jewish sources, however, said it was still not certain whether the new trial had actually been postponed or cancelled or whether this was only a ploy to conduct the trial in entire secrecy as an “underground trial,” It had been reported earlier this week that the Leningrad Nine, charged with knowing about the alleged hijacking attempt but failing to report it to Soviet authorities and accused of anti-Soviet and pro-Zionist activities, had been forced to confess while in prison awaiting trial. There were also reports that the defendants would “confess” in court which would be open to the public and foreign press.


Professor Harold Berman of the Harvard Law School, a leading authority on Soviet law, in a telephone interview told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “if the prosecution drops the charges there can be no trial and the defendants, under Soviet law, are free. They can, however, be detained for possible investigation, Ordinarily, persons can be kept under preliminary investigation for a maximum of one month. However, with the permission of a higher Procurator, they can be detained for three months, and with the permission of the Procurator General, this can be extended for nine months.” Professor Berman added that under Soviet law, nine months is the maximum detention period. “However, this law has been known to have been violated in a few instances,” he added. “Under Soviet law, a person can be kept under investigation without access to counsel.” Assessing the motives for the “postponement” or cancellation, Allan Rose, assistant national director of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said today that in the view of the CJC, “the Soviet Union is deeply embarrassed by world public reaction, particularly from the Communist Parties around the world. The Soviet leaders cannot claim to be leaders of the Third World struggle for anti-racialism and anti-colonialism when the Jews in the Soviet Union are kept in bondage.” Rose felt the Soviet attitude toward requests for emigration will begin to soften.

Meanwhie, sources identified the Leningrad Nine as: Lev Leibovich Korenblit, 48, mathematician; Solomon Dreizner, 38, engineer, Vladimir Osherovich Mogilever, 30, engineer; Mikhail Korenblit, brother of Lev Korenblit; Viktor Shtilbans, 28, physician; Viktor David Boguslavsky, 30, engineer; Grigory Liya Butman, 37, engineer; Lassal Kaminsky, 40, engineer; and Yagman. Boguslavsky was arrested July 12, Shtilbans and Mikhail Korenblit were arrested Nov. 16, and the other seven were all arrested June 15. There was no word today about the fate of other Jews awaiting trial in Riga and Kishinev. Jewish sources identified those in Kishiner as: Aleksander Galperin, 34, arrested July 24; Arkady Voloshin, Gari Kirschncr and David Rabinovich, all arrested Aug. 15, and Semeon Abramovich Levit, arrested in November.

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