July 10, 1978 – A Dissident On Trial In Moscow – Anatoly Sharansky Faces Death Sentence
July 10, 1978. News for this day was about trials in Moscow. The world expected two Dissidents to go on trial. Instead, there were four. Jewish dissident Anatoly Sharansky declared he was innocent of all charges brought against him; labeling them as absurd. He fired his court-appointed lawyer and said he would conduct his own self-defense. Sharansky faced a possible Death Penalty over the charges. At an unusual press briefing for reporters barred from the trial, a Soviet Official said Sharansky was accused of giving secrets to Foreign intelligence services through diplomats and journalists. Meanwhile, another Jewish Dissident, Alexander Ginsburg also pleaded innocent to charges of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda. He faced a possible 10-year prison term and five more in Siberian exile. A third Dissident and member of the Helsinki Human Rights Group, was put on trial in Vilnius Lithuania.
All of the proceedings carried major implications for already troubled East-West relations. The timing seemed to underscore The Kremlin’s determination to smash dissent, despite the impact it would have abroad.
With all the goings on in Moscow, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance publicly stated that, no matter how great the concern, the trials going on in the Soviet Union would not stop the American effort to reach agreement on a new SALT Treaty, limiting nuclear arms. Slated to leave for Geneva the next day, Vance held a news conference prior to his departure. He admitted the trials had already aggravated relations between Moscow and Washington, but was adamant that he was not going to call off Strategic Arms limitation talks with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko as a form of protest. Vancde went on to say he was leaving for Geneva the following day because “SALT was something special, it was dealing with prospects of mutual annihilation on either side and that this issue must be treated differently from others”.