Los Angeles Times correspondent Robert C. Toth, accused yesterday by Soviet authorities of collecting secret political and military information, underwent two more rounds of KGB security police interrogation today.
As was the case yesterday, Toth was not allowed to bring an interpreter or a member of the U.S. embassy staff along to the questioning. He told reporters outside Lefortevo prison while the tome of today's questioning at times became "very hostile," it was never stated today - as was once suggested yesterday - that he was involved in spying.
Toth told his colleagues from the Western press corps in Moscow that he was closely questioned about articles he had written on scientific subjects and about his relationship to jailed dissident Anatoly Scharansky.
After a total of 61/2 hours of interrogation by a KGB colonel and major Toth said he asked what would happen Thursday. The senior officer answered, "We'll see." The correspondent and his family had been scheduled to leave Moscow this weekend after a three-year tour, but he has been ordered to stay while the investigation of him continues.
[President Carter said at the White House today that the United States has expressed its "strongest objections about what has been done about our deep concern about their . . . action."]
[The Senate, meanwhile, approved a resolution calling on the administration to take "every appropriate means" to obtain Toth's safe return. The resolution called his detention "a gross violation" of the 1975 Helsinki accords, part of which guaranteed improved working conditions for journalists.]
The nature of today's questioning indicates that authorities had planned to detain Toth even before the incident last Saturday when he was seized on a downtown street after an acquaintance of his, a scientist, handed him a paper on parapsychology. The incident was not mentioned at all today. Instead, the interrogators bore down on Toth's work here as a journalist.
"They resurrected every science story I've ever done," Toth said, "and some I didn'to do but wanted to. They went through it all: How did I meet people, implicitly why I was interested in these subjects." Toth, 48, is an experienced science writer and wrote about Soviet genetics, linguistics and sociology among other subjects.
In one article using material he openly credited to Scharansky, Toth said that some Soviets who worked in seemingly ordinary institutions such as a meteorological lab had been refused permission to emigrate on the ground of secrecy. Toth had suggested that there was some doubt, therefore, as to what really went on in those establishments. This story particularly interested the Soviets.
Scharansky, a 29-year-old computer programmer who served as an informal spokesmen for dissidents, was arrested in March. His family has been told that he is being held on treason charges.
As part o fa broader effort to discredit both Western journalists here and Soviet dissidents, the KGB appears to be using Toth's professional interest in science and his friendship with Scharansky to create the impression that something subversive was involved. Yesterday, Toth described the allegation that he was collecting the allegation that he was collecting secrets as "ludicrous,"
The Toth case, which is unprecedented as far as anyone here can recall, shows how far the Kremlin is prepared to go in affronting Tuesday. Carter for his human-rights statements. Moscow regards American journalists as representatives of American ideology, an da blow at them is clearly intended to be a blow them is clearly intended to be a blow at both Carter and the United States.
American diplomats have immunity from such forms of harassment as that being used against Toth. The worst that can happen to a U.S. official i sthat he would be expelled. Journalists, however, are subject to the full force of Soviet law.
A good part of the interrogation time today was taken up with Toth's refusal to sign a Russian-language record of the sessions, essentially a summary. The correspondent who speaks only rudimentary Russian, said he resisted signing a document that he could not read.
"They were very angry about my not signing," he said. "I'd have to say they were threatening."