The atmosphere turned ugly yesterday at the heavily controlled trial of dissident leader Yuri Orlov, with his state-approved audience jeering him inside the courtroom and police harassing and scuffling with Western reporters and Soviet human rights activists outside.
Orlov's wife, Irina, said the spectators were "crude and impolite," laughing on signal from a supervisor at her husband's attempt to defend himself from a charge of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.
As the second day of the trial ended at a small people's court in southeast Moscow, police repeatedly tried to break up her attempts to tell of the one-sided proceedings in the courtroom, from which the public is barred.
Shouting "Enough! Enough!", police harassed the group of journalists, dissidents and Orlov family friends then scuffled with two reporters in a parking lot of a nearby self-service market. They tried to seize one reporter's tape recorder and camera, ripped the clothing of a Jewish activist Vladimir Slepak, and hauled off one person who had been keeping vigil outside the court for two days.
A small group of young toughs shouted, "Dirty Jews!" and pounded on reporters' cars when they left, as the police stood by.
Irina Orlov and the jailed dissident's two sons by a former marriage are the only outsiders allowed in the courtroom, whose benches are packed with specially selected "citizens." The family said yesterday that Orlov was repeatedly silenced by the prosecutor and the presiding judge, prevented from questioning state evidence against him and again prohibited, as he was the first day from calling witnesses in his own defense.
The scenario is a repeat of Monday's opening session. Orlov is the founder of a small group of activists who in 1976 began issuing reports of alleged Soviet abuses of the Human rights provisions of the Helsinki agreement on European cooperation and security, signed by the Soviet Union, the United States and 33 other nations in 1975.
The reports of this "Helsinki monitoring group form the bisis of the state's accusation of criminal violation against Orlov, 52-year-old nuclear physicist.
Orlov agreed Monday that he participated in the formulation and distribution of the reports, but said they were lawful under both the Soviet code and the Helsinki accords. He said he was motivated by humanitarian concerns in seeing that the reports were issued.
The prosecution unsuccessfuly sought to draw from Orlov the admission that he specifically gave Helsinki group material American correspondents.
The charge against Orlov, violation of Article 70 of the Soviet Criminal Code, is a favorite of the Soviet government to suppress political opponents.It carries a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment and five more in exile. Dissident Alexander Ginzburg faces the same charge, but could get a 10-year sentence because of a prior conviction. Anatoli Scharansky, another activist, has been accused in the press of treason, a capital crime. The latter two cases are expected to be brought to trial soon.
Meanwhile, dissident sources said yesterday that Alexander Podrabinek, 24, an activist who said he refused to give evidence against Orlov, has been arrested.
Podrabinek said recently that the KGB, the Soviet secret police, warned that it had enough evidence against him to charge him with an Article 70 violation, but would be willing to let it go if he agreed to testify against Orlov. Podrabinek said he refused.
As on Monday, the U.S. Embassy here sent first secretary Richard Combs to stand vigil outside as an expression of concern for Orlov and the dissident cause.