Dissident figure Alexander Ginzburg is scheduled to go on trial Monday on charges of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda, his wife said yesterday. The trial may thus coincide with the meeting in Geneva next Tuesday and Wednesday between U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, and constitute a further exascerbating incident in the troubled relations between Moscow and Washington.
President Carter's outspoken human rights policies have infuriated the Kremlin. When Ginzburg was arrested Feb. 3, 1977, by Soviet secret police, the State Department issued an expression of "concern" for him.
A series of incidents over recent weeks - ranging from mutual allegations of espionage, to the seizure and arrest of a U.S. businessman. To last week's unprecendentated Soviet slander suit against two U.S. correspondents - has generated new tension between the capitals at a time when they have discovered profoundly different perceptions of the detente relationship.
If the Ginzburg tria proceeds, it is sure to have repercussions in the United States that the White House will find difficult to ignore, just as Vance is trying to achieve progress with Gromyko in the stalled strategic arms negotiations that lie at the center of dente.
Ginzburg, a close friend of exiled Nobel Prize-winning author-Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was a major figure in the small group of Moscow dissidents who attempted to monitor Soviet compliance with the human rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki agreement on European security and cooperation.
Ginzburg also administered a fund for political prisoners and their families from book royalties of Solzhenitsyn's works. His wife, Arina, has caried on the relief fund work since his arrest.
In May, the Soviets tried and convicted Yuri Orlov, another founder of the monitoring group, on the same charge and sentenced him to seven years imprisonment and five years internal banishment.
Ginsburg, 41, faces a stiffer sentence of up to 10 years in a labor camp plus five in exile because he was convicted in 1968 of the same offense, Orlov's conviction brought an outcry in the West, and several prestigious groups of scientists scheduled to come here from the U.S. on excharge programs canceled their trips to show their disapproval. The cases of Ginzburg, Orlov and Anatoli Scharansky have brought widespread condemnation in Western countries of the Kremlin's efforts to stifle the dissidents. Of the original 11 signers of the Helsinki monitoring groups founding declaration, only one is still unscathed by the Kremlin campaign.
Ginzburg has been held virtually incommunicado since his arrest and detention in the provincial city of Kaluga, about 80 miles south of Moscow. It was thought that he would be brought to trial some weeks ago, closer to the Orlov trial, but his wife said that he recently was sick and that she understood the trial date had been postponed. Mrs. Ginzburg told reporters that news of the trial date came from her husband's lawyer, Yelena Reznikova, who has been officially notified.
The U.S. Embassy is understood to be planning to send a representative to try to attend the trial. The Soviets customarily pack dissident trials with handpicked official spectators and the claim there is no room for outsiders. Foreign correspondents also have been routinely barred. Only members of the immediate firmly are normaly allowed to attend.