TITLE=RUSSIA / BERIA (L-O)
INTRO: Russia's Supreme Court has firmly rejected a
request to pardon Lavrenty Beria, the police chief who
oversaw Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's reign of
terror. Moscow Correspondent Peter Heinlein reports
the idea of clearing Beria's name had infuriated
TEXT: Russia's Supreme Court threw out an appeal by
members of the Beria family, who claimed he should be
rehabilitated because he had been a victim of
repression. The court's judgment said in part that
Beria was the organizer of repression against his own
people, and therefore could not be considered a
Beria, who like Stalin was ethnic Georgian, headed the
N-K-V-D, the Soviet secret police agency that later
became the K-G-B. During the Stalin era, he oversaw
massive purges that claimed millions of lives.
Historians estimate that one-million people were
killed in 1938 and 1939 alone.
But after Stalin's death in 1953, Beria and several
associates were arrested and tried on a variety of
charges, including espionage and attempting to
overthrow the government. He and six associates were
executed by firing squad in December of that year.
Two-years ago, family members requested that Beria's
name be cleared under a 1987 law designed to pardon
victims of political repression.
Before the Supreme Court's verdict was announced,
Liberal Member of Parliament Yuli Rybakov said it was
probably true that some of the charges against Beria,
including espionage, were made up. But he said that
should not detract from the police chief's greater
/// RYBAKOV ACT IN RUSSIAN, THEN FADE TO. ///
He says - we can change all or part of the sentence
against Beria, but we will never be able to change the
crimes committed by him or by Stalin's regime."
Human-rights activist Boris Pustyntsev was earlier
quoted as saying - even a hint of justifying the
crimes of Beria is a blasphemy against the relatives
of his 40-million victims.
But many Russians are uncertain about their country's
totalitarian past. Some Communist members of
Parliament have demanded that a statue of Soviet
Secret Police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky be restored.
The statue stood for years in front of Lubyanka, the
K-G-B headquarters, but was torn down by pro-democracy
activists in August 1991, as the Soviet Union was
29-May-2000 09:21 AM EDT (29-May-2000 1321 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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