Having been denied a visa to plead the case of imprisoned Soviet dissident Alexander Ginzburg in the Soviet Union, Washington attorney and noted trial lawyer Edward Bennett Williams pleaded Ginzburg's case in dramatic and impassioned courtroom style before the Helsinki commission here yesterday.
"I've been deprived of the right to look at his accusers. I've been deprived of the right to see that he gets a fair trial. So the only courtroom I have is the courtroom of public opinion. I believe it behooves me and other members of my profession to speak out on this because when the nerve of freedom is cut anywhere the whole body can die," Williams said.
"It is not important for Edward Bennett Williams to go (to the Soviet Union). But it is important that someone goes and sees whether Anatoly Scharansky has a fair trial or whether Alexander Ginzburg has a fair trial."
Ginzburg, 40, a historian and writer, was arrested Feb. 4, shortly after he held a press conference to announce how he had distributed more than $360,000 provided by writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn to help families of political prisoners in the Soviet Union. Ginzburg has been taken to Kaluga Prison, 150 miles outside of Moscow, but not charged.
Ginzburg, ill with tuberculosis, had already served seven years in Soviet prisons, primarily for writing and circulating in the West a book about the trial of two other Soviet dissidents.
Scharansky, 29, is reportedly being charged with treason after being arrested in March, when a newspaper article accused him of working for the Central Intelligence Agency. Both Scharansky and Ginzburg are also members of a Soviet dissident group monitoring compliance in the Soviet Union with the Helsinki accords of 1975, an international agreement which includes a major section guaranteeing human rights.
The Helsinki commission, before which Williams testified, is an intergovernmental body created by Congress to monitor Soviet compliance with the Helsinki accords.
A conference of the Helsinki signatories is scheduled for Belgrade later in June, and Williams asked the Commission to "make sure" the arrest of the Soviet dissidents who belong to the Helsinki monitoring group, "is the first order of business on the agenda."
President Carter's press secretary, Jody Powell, said Thursday that the administration's concern about the campaign against Soviet members of the monitoring group will be raised in Belgrade.
Commission Chairman Rep. Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.) asked Williams whether a strong stand on human rights might have a spillover effect on other matters in the accords and whether it might not be construed as interference in the internal affairs of another nation.
"I believe the Soviets respect strength and resolution of purpose and have total contempt for vacillation and indecision. When you sign accords people have the right to believe that you're going to live by it," Williams said.
"As long as we keep the searchlight of public opinion on the treatment of dissidents in the Soviet Union, I believe we will render maximum service to the dissident," he said.
Williams said he had been asked by Solzhenitsyn, now living in Vermont, to defend Ginzburg. He said he "naively" believed the request for a visa might be honored because he had defended in the early '60s, at the request of the Soviet embassy, two Soviet citizens here who had been ac [TEXT FROM SOURCE]
Commission member Rep. Millicent H. Fenwick (R-N.J.) told Williams she was moved by his presentation, but added, "The problem is we have no sanctions."
Williams' testimony was followed by the testimony of two Soviet women who were members of the Helsinki monitoring group, but were given permission to emigrate from Russia.
They presented a new set of reports of violations of human rights within the Soviet Union as compiled by their Helsinki monitoring group.
Lyudmila Alekseeva said that in the last four months nine members of the Helsinki watch groups have been arrested.
Lidia Voronia told of traveling to the Ukraine to compile information on violations of human rights of Pentecostals.
Both said focusing public opinion on the treatment of religious groups and dissidents could only help, not hurt them.