An American businessman accused of currency speculation said yesterday that he had been told by Soviet police investigators that he would be brought to trial "very, very soon."
Denying any violations of Soviet currency law, Francis J. Crawford of International Harvester said at a news conference he believed the outcome of his case will depend on what happens to two Russians who face spy charges in New Jersey.
"I'm a pawn in a political chess game," Crawford, 37, told Western reporters during a break in the nearly continuous interrogation he has been undergoing at Lefortovo Prison.
Crawford also told reporters that his request that an American lawyer be allowed to help defend him had been denied, and that he had been assigned a Soviet attorney whom he was to meet later last night.
The Soviet attorney was identified by sources close to the case as Leonid Maximovich Popov, thought to be the same lawyer who defended Anatoly Filatov - a Soviet administrative worker sentenced to death last month as an accused spy.
If Crawford who has spent more than 19 hours undergoing interrogation during the past three days, is put on trial, it will inevitably add a fresh irritant to Soviet-American relations.
A senior American diplomat said retaliatory measures are being considered in the event Crawford is convicted and sent to jail. The official would not specify measures under consideration.
It was believed, however, that the issue was raised yesterday by Armand Hammer of Occidental Petroleum during a meeting with Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev.
Hammer, for many years one of the most vigorous advocates of Soviet-American trade, has discussed the Crawford case with top Soviet trade officials earlier this week in an apparent effort to make clear to them the likely adverse impact his trial would have on Soviet relations with the United States.
Under Soviet statutes, Crawford faces a maximum penalty of eight years in jail.
Crawford, who said earlier tha t his interrogators claimed he exchanged $8,500 for rubles at nearly four times the official rate, reported that he had been questioned repeatedly this week about "when I obtained rubles, how I obtained rubles, and expenditures of the rubles.
"The evidnece they feel is sufficient to try me is very inconclusive, very distorted," Crawford said. "I once again want to reiterate my innocence."
It is widely believed in the diplomatic community here that his arrest last June on currency speculation charges was made in retalization for the arrest in the United States on espionage charges of two Russian employes of the United Nation.
The two Soviets, who do not have diplomatic immunity, are scheduled to go on trial in Newark Sept. 12.
After his arrest, Crawford was granted conditional freedom in the custody of U.S. Ambassador Malcolm Toon in exchange for the release under similar conditions of the two suspected Soviet agents in the United States.
There has been speculation here that the two governments would work out some further arrangements under which charges against Crawford and the two Russians would be dropped, and the men exchanged.
The Carter administration has insisted that the two cases are not similary since the Russians were caught red-handed trying to obtain U.S. Navy secrets, while Crawford was picked up for an alleged violation - yet to be substantiated - and not involving espionage.
Since a swap is not likely, the prospect of Crawford's trial may reflect the Kremlin's frustration over its inability to obtain the release of the two suspected spies.
The original move against Crawford coincided with the filing of slander charges here against two American correspondents.
The slander case was closed this week - and the correspondents let off with only a fine and a reprimand in part because the two correspondents enjoyed full support of their journalistic colleagues here and in the United States.