DATE=5/29/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / BERIA (L-O) NUMBER=2-262928 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: 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 human-rights groups. 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 victim. 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 crimes. /// 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 collapsing. (SIGNED) NEB/PFH/GE/RAE 29-May-2000 09:21 AM EDT (29-May-2000 1321 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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