Robert Dambroviceanu, a former journalist who signed a petition earlier this year alleging widespread human-rights violations in Romania, says that nowadays he wears suits without pockets.
In theory, political dissent is not a crime in Romania, but many dissidents are worried that planted "evidence" could be used to convict them of other offenses. For example, a few foreign banknotes stuffed in a pocket could be used to charge an infringement of Romania's stringent foreign currency regulations.
Less than a month before the meeting in Belgrade to review the results of the 1975 Helsinki Conference, with human rights expected to be a major issue, the mood among the tiny band of Romanian dissident intellectuals is one of disillusion and fear. A campaign led by the Romanian author Paul Goma in support of the Charter 77 rights movement in Czecholslovakia has been crushed by a combination of tough police action, threats of lengthy prison sentences, and hints of rewards for dissidents who fall into line.
While most attention in the West has been focused on the activities of Goma and his supporters, foreign observers in Bucharest believe that complaints of religious discrimination by Evangelical Baptist and unrest among ethnic Germans in Transylvania now pose a greater danger to the Romanian authorities.
Although President Nicolae Ceausescuis renowned for his staunchly independent foreign policy, he is, one of the sternest and most doctrinaire Communist rulers in Eastern Europe when it comes to domestic affairs.
There has never been much of a tradition of dissent in Romania, which was under Turkish rule for some five centuries until it declared independence in 1877. So it came as a surprise when a document surfaced here in February addressed to the 35 nations that signed the Helsinki declaration. The Bucharest document called on the participating states to urge the Romanian government to observe international agreements on human rights - including the right to work in one's profession, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.
Instead of being quietly forgotten, as most foreign experts predicted, the document drew increasing support. This was at least partly because of the Romanian government's tactics in issuing passports to many of the signatories to persuade them to leave.
The result was that signing Goma's appeal became regarded as one of the best ways of getting permission to leave Romania - something many middle classintellectuals had been trying to do for years. Goma himself, who insisted that he would always remain in Romania, was exasperated by the number of people who signed his appeal primarily because they wanted exit visas, and not because they had any concern about human rights.
"I didn't start this movement in order to turn myself into a travel agent," he is reported to have remarked.
In March, I visited Goma, 42, who lives with his wife and 1-year-old child in a tiny apartment on the outskirts of Bucharest. He had collected some 150 signatures by then and the telephone rang constantly with nore messages of support. He said he had been offered a chance of literary rehabilitation in return for keeping silent, but he insisted that he would continue to speak out.
At the beginning of April, the government took a much harsher line toward dissidents. Goma was arrested. Many of the signatories of his document were brought in for lengthy questioning. Leading Baptist were detained and in some cases beaten. A press campaign was launched describing the seamier side of life in the West.
Goma, again free after six weeks in prison, is now reluctant to meet foreign journalists. His friends believe he has given up his campaign, at least temporarily, after seeing many of his fomer supporters recant and after becoming aware of the enormous power of the state to crush dissent.
The pressures on dissidents to conform are considerable. According to dissident sources, a number of humanrights campaigners and Baptists were released from prison on the understanding that they not talk to foreigners. While under interrogation, they were told they could be charged under sections of the Romanian penal code that cover treason and conspiracy and carry penalties of 5 to 20 years in prison.
At least eight other intellectuals, including Serban Stefanescu, the grandson of a former minister of the interior, have been sent to work for a year at a cement factory under a law that requires all able-bodied citizens to be usefully employed.
Meanwhile, dissidents who behave have been offered the chance of a good job. Dambroviceanu, for example, has been appointed economic director of a collective farm. His background is typical of many of the signatories of Goma's appeal: formerly on the Communist Party newspaper Scinteia, he was forced to leave it in 1970 because of his political views. He spent the years 1971 to 1973 in jail for alleged fraud.
Signatories to Goma's appeal also included some ethnic Germans, Romania's largest minority after the Hungarians. There had been considerable pressure from the Germans, most of whom live in Transylvania, to emigrate to West Germany.
President Ceausescu allowed German emigration to rise early this year to more than 1,000 a month. In some villages, as much as half the population was applying to leave in the belief that all emigration would be stopped after the beginning of the Belgrade conference in June.
The desire to get out before it was too late combined with some cases of corruption involving local passport of ficials, evidently panicked the government into imposing a complete ban on German emigration. Newspapers carried attacks on "neo-fascists" circles in Western countries for attempting to persuade Romanians to desert their homelands.
A series of vitriolic articles described the capitalist world as dominated by drugs, pornography, homelessness, and unemployment. The technique was to extract horror stories from Western newspapers, string them together, and present them as an accurate reflection of the Western way of life.
A bigger potential threat to the government than the dissidents or Germans would appear to be the Evangelical wing of the Baptist Church here - believed to be the fastest growing church in Europe with a membership of more than 100,000.
Earlier this year the Evangelical Baptists - led by the British-trained Pastor Josif Tson - produced a 16-page letter alleging widespread religious discrimination. The document gave precise details of alleged harassment, including arrests of Romanian Protestants. It was read in full on the U.S. Radio Free Europe, which is widely heard in Romania.
One of the major complaints of the Baptists is that they are kept out of institutions for higher education. Baptist sources allege that Komsomol, the Communist Party youth league, must approve candidates for university admission - and approval is not given to practicing Christians.
The government reacted to these allegations by detaining the sic signatories of the document, including Pastor Tson. Baptist sources allege that some of those detained were pummeled and kicked by police.
The original signatories have now been released - apparently in return for agreeing not to talk to foreigners. But six other Baptists who signed the document later were then arrested.
It has been said here that the Baptists probably stand a good chance of a tracting the attention of the Baptist U.S. Presidents, Jimmy Carter, who has so far kept silent on alleged human-rights violations in Romania. In any case, their compulsion to proselytize means they are unlikely to be willing to meet the authorities' demands for silence.
According to Baptist sources, the police took away Pastor Tson's license allowing him to preach, but he has continued to conduct services.