On November 24-25, 1980, in Vilnius the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR tried the case of [Miss] Genovaitė Navickaitė and [Miss] Ona Vitkauskaitė, charged with reproducing and distributing the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
Even the closest relatives of the defendants were noi informed of the upcoming trial. They found out about it from the witnesses who had been summoned to court. Security police guarded the courtroom and would admit no one except close relatives. The courtroom itself was filled with security agents and what the Chekists call "practitioners." [Miss] Brone Vitkauskaitė was not excused from work to prevent her from attending her own sister's trial.
The defendants were brought in at 10 a.m., escorted by soldiers. The witnesses [Mrs.] Terese Petrikienė and [Miss] Genute Mačenskaitė suddenly stepped up to them saying, "Greetings from all who are praying for you!" The soldiers rudely ordered the courageous women away.
The judge introduced the members of the court: the presiding judge, Repsa, the assessors Burokevičienė and Gudelevičius. The state prosecutor was Kyriyenko.
The defendant, Navickaitė, refused defense counsel, saying that since she had not seen him until the trial, then he was all the more unnecessary during the trial. Besides, he could be of no help in a case such as this. Ona Vitkauskaitė also refused defense counsel. The court agreed that the attorneys should not take part, and that they should leave the courtroom.
The charge was read. The defendants were being charged under Article 199, Paragraph 1 of the Lithuanian SSR Criminal Code for slandering the Soviet system because they reproduced and distributed the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. Ona Vitkauskaitė reproduced issue no. 42 of the Chronicle and Gene Navickaitė, issue nos. 40, 41, and 42. The material reported in the Chronicle is considered libelous.
Navickaitė, when asked by the judge whether she admitted her guilt, replied that she had committed no crime since the Chronicle was a religious publication and she had reproduced it wishing to defend the Church against persecution.
The judge read a few excerpts from the Chronicle relating to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact regarding the division of the Baltic States, the forcible annexation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union, and how during the postwar years the bodies of Lithuanian patriots were desecrated in the city streets and innocent people were exiled to Siberia. Navickaitė replied' that she knew that things like that really were done because of what she had heard from people.
The judge read an excerpt which stated that plans were being made in Moscow to destroy the Church from within. He declared that this was slander. Again, he read another excerpt stating that in the Prieveniškės camp there is no distinction between the criminals and their guards; they can be dinstinguished only by their uniform. Navickaitė answered that this was the way it really was, for the guards are very harsh, rude, and are always cursing the prisoners.
The judge asked Navickaitė where she obtained the typewriters. The defendant explained that she obtained one of them from Father Virgilijus Jaugelis (died February 1980 — Ed.) and the other she purchased from a stranger, who gave her nos. 40, 41, and 42 of the Chronicle, asking her to reproduce them.
The judge asked whether Navickaitė was pleading guilty.
The defendant refused to admit that she was guilty.
The prosecutor tried to show that the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania did not defend the interests of the Church but was interfering in political matters.
Then Ona Vitkauskaitė was questioned. The judge asked the defendant why she had travelled to Bagotoji; who had given her the Chronicle; why she had reproduced it, etc. The accused explained that she found the Chronicle in her mailbox, and that she would have given the copies to friends to read. Vitkauskaitė too did not admit that she was guilty.
Cross-Examination of Witnesses
The first to be cross-examined was [Mrs.] Teresė Petrikienė in whose apartment Genovaitė Navickaitė had been arrested. The witness confirmed that Navickaitė had been writing at her home only on the day before her arrest.
The witness [Miss] Genovaitė Mačenskaitė refused to sign the court warning concerning her responsibilities in the event of false testimony. Her reason: "Because during the search they would not allow me to observe even though I was at home and because during the interrogation they wished to falsify the record, I came to the conclusion that it was impossible to trust the security agents, therefore, I will not sign here, either."
"So you do not trust the court?" the judge asked.
"I do not trust any of you because you're all playing the same tune!" she retorted.
Mačenskaitė testified that she had studied and worked together with Navickaitė. "She is a remarkable and rare person. She is conscientious, has never told a lie, and is very friendly and sincere. People like Genutė are incapable of committing any crime. I believe that the court will find her innocent." In addition, Mačenskaitė denied that Navickaitė had left her a copy of the Chronicle.
The pastor of Bagotoji, Father Vaclovas Degutis, (Ona Vitkauskaitė had been arrested in the rectory at Bagotoji — Ed.) testified that he had seen Vitkauskaitė when once she was visiting his housekeeper. He knew nothing more about her.
The housekeeper, [Miss] Janina Pileckytė, did not come to the trial.
The court presented the evidence. During the raid, on the second floor of the rectory, they found an Erika typewriter, writing paper, Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, no. 42, and ten incomplete copies. On these were found Vitkauskaitė's fingerprints. Earlier, Vitkauskaitė had worked as an engineer and most recently as the janitor at the church in Sasnava. Evaluations by fellow workers stated that she was reserved, did not participate in social activities, and that it had later become apparent that she was very religious.
During the search of Petrikienė's apartment, Genovaitė Navickaitė was discovered typing. Two typewriters were discovered (an Erika and an Optima), issue no. 42 of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, and ten unbound copies. Navickaitė's fingerprints were found on the copies of the Chronicle confiscated from Father Sigitas Tamkevičius. These issues had been typed on Navickaitė's typewriter. An issue of the Chronicle copied on Navickaitė's typewriter was found in Mačenskaitė's apartment. On January 30,1980, at the home of Povilas Buzas, a resident of Birštonas, a copy of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, no. 41, retyped on Navickaitė's machine, was found.
The personnel file from Kaunas Clinical Hospital no. 2 was read. It noted that Navickaitė was helpful to patients, gentle, and conscientious in her work, although she did not participate in any activities.
On November 25 security police were on duty again at the courtroom doors. Only close relatives were admitted.
The State Prosecutor stated that the two women on trial were charged under Article 199, Paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code. They reproduced and distributed the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. The prosecutor said that the very name of the Chronicle was slanderous. In his opinion the very titles of the articles reek with libel: "The Occupation: A Catastrophe for the Catholic Church of Lithuania," "Anilionis: the Executioner of the Church," etc.
The prosecutor read an excerpt from the Chronicle:
"The postwar years were difficult in Lithuania. Innocent people were deported to Siberia, the corpses of slain patriots were dragged through city streets, and the prisons were crowded with innocent people" (The Chronicle, no. 42
"As one can see, that is obvious slander since there was nothing of the sort," declared the prosecutor. "The article 'Instead of Hope — Fear' (The Chronicle, no. 40) speaks against priests and bishops loyal to the Soviet government. In issue no. 41 of the Chronicle we find'1980 does not seem to promise any relief for the Lithuanian Catholics. The Soviet tanks in Afghanistan confirm this.' Here the Soviet Union is obviously being slandered!" the prosecutor angrily declared. The prosecutor went on to explain in detail which issues of the Chronicle were copied by Navickaitė and concluded that the prisoner "zealously copied and distributed the Chronicle, even though she did not admit any guilt."
"Ona Vitkauskaitė," Prosecutor Kyriyenko continued, "having purchased a typewriter from some unknown person and having discovered the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, no. 42, in her mailbox, began to copy it. She later continued this task in the rectory at Bagotoji, where she was arrested. The crime has clearly been proven even though the accused refuses to admit her guilt."
Ending his closing statement, the prosecutor recommended two and one-half years of ordinary regime camp for Navickaitė, and two years for Ona Vitkauskaitė.
Navickaitė's Defense Speech and Closing Statement
"The court accuses me," (recorded from memory — Ed.) stated the defendant, "of slandering the Soviet system by duplicating the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. I did not libel the system since I hold the Chronicle to be a religious publication which presents the facts of the persecution of the Lithuanian Catholic Church. That believers are being persecuted I know from my own experience. I was only fourteen when one of my brothers (Fr. Zenonas Navickas
—Ed.) submitted an application to the theological seminary. Government officials began to persecute him in every way. Security agents tried to dissuade him, threatening that he would never get into the seminary anyway. Township Chairman Diomkin came to our home and told my father to forbid his son to enter the theological seminary. He even threatened to beat my parents, but my cousin came to their defense. Later, my brother was dismissed from work. They threatened me in school, saying that if my brother entered the seminary, I would not be able to complete school and would not be admitted to any school of higher education. Even though the seminary accepted my brother, the government rejected him, and he was not allowed to enroll. These events affected me a great deal; I understood that the faithful are truly persecuted. And, later, I had many occasions to experience how the faithful and the priests are persecuted, belittled, and punished. All the facts recorded in the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania are true and are not libelous. I request the court to realize that. I do not admit guilt.
"Even though I have experienced many injustices from the atheists," continued Navickaitė, "while working as a nurse I conscientiously nursed everyone, atheists and believers alike, and cared for their health."
In her closing statement, Navickaitė expressed the conviction that the court would find her not guilty, but if she were sentenced, then she would feel even more the injustice which she had experienced in her early youth. Upon her return from the camp, she would again nurse believers and nonbelievers with equal care.
The Defense Speech and Final Statement of Ona Vitkauskaitė
The defendant said (recorded from memory — Ed.) that the LSSR Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience, of belief, and of the press. In Lithuania, however, many of the youths who wished to enter the seminary were not allowed to do so by the government and, therefore, many parishes lack priests. It hurts to see how children are pressured in school, and how atheism is forced upon them. Parents complain that their children are being educated contrary to their convictions. In other Soviet republics, too, the situation of religious believers is terrible. "Judge, become a believer for one minute and try to understand whether this is bearable."
The judge interrupted Vitkauskaitė's speech, advising her to address herself only to what was relevant to the case.
"Judge," continued the accused, "what I am saying concerns the case directly because from this it becomes clear that the Church in Lithuania is being persecuted and that the Chronicle does not slander the government but writes the truth. It defends the rights of believers. You should not put us on trial for reproducing it but take notice of the conduct of certain officials. The facts brought out in the Chronicle are true, and that is why the government should see to it that similar events do not recur."
Concluding her defense, Vitkauskaitė emphasized that she did not consider herself guilty and was not asking the court for leniency. She also expressed mortification that the court had called her a slanderer, since during her entire life she had never slandered anyone and had always tried to be conscientious. "Christ himself suffered innocently on the cross. He was insulted and slandered by all. Freedom, of course, is precious to everyone, but if I am sentenced, I will offer my suffering for Lithuania's future, for her young people, so they would be good, that all would love one another, and that everyone would be able to live and believe freely."
After a long recess, the verdict was handed down:
"The court has proven guilt completely but, taking into account the good character references from work, lessens the sentence." Genovaitė Navickaitė was sentenced to two years to be served in an ordinary-regime camp, and Ona Vitkauskaitė was sentenced to one and one-half years, also in an ordinary-regime camp.
Following the verdict, the relatives and the witnesses who were in the courtroom presented flowers to the women and thanked them for their sacrifice.
The security agents left the courtroom strangely dejected, clearly understanding, it seemed, that the crime was committed not in copying the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania but in the courtroom. Relatives and friends parted with tears of joy. A trial such as this is a triumph for the Church and another step towards the abyss for tyranny.
A Open Letter to Judge Repša
"Judge, on November 24 and 25, 1980, you tried my sister, [Miss] Genovaitė Navickaitė, and [Miss] Ona Vitkauskaitė. As the brother of one of those on trial, I was allowed into the courtroom. But it was impossible for others to enter, except security people, because two security agents stood at the door, allowing no one into the courtroom. You charged my sister and Ona Vitkauskaitė on the basis of Article 199, Paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code, which speaks of 'the deliberate propagation of fabrications which discredit the Soviet political and social system.' This article was not applicable because their sole offense was that they reproduced the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, in which real facts are printed and not deliberate fabrications. If you had been concerned with truth and justice, you would have seen what all the faithful of Lithuania see; you would have found my sister and Ona Vitkauskaitė not guilty, and you would have awarded them damages for the material and moral injustices committed against them. According to Soviet law every person has the freedom of speech, that is, the ability to say what he thinks. A person has the right to criticize obvious injustices, and those on trial did just that. In reproducing the Chronicle they were totally convinced that they were justly criticizing the evils of Soviet life. If they had been wrong, if the facts reported in the Chronicle had not corresponded to reality, then the court should have thoroughly investigated the events described and should have summoned a large number of witnesses to confirm that the described facts were fabrications. The court should have given my sister and Ona Vitkauskaitė the opportunity to defend themselves, to call the necessary witnesses and secure the proper defense attorneys. But what did you do, Judge? You recommended attorneys during the trial itself. The accused acted wisely in refusing them since they would have been only actors in a badly produced farce of a trial. The attorneys should have acquainted themselves in advance with the accusations. They should have met with the people reported in the Chronicle to have been unjustly treated so that they might be able to testify to the truth during the trial. Unfortunately, this is just a pipe dream. If a serious attorney had wanted to seriously defend the women, he would have been quickly disqualified. All of this happens because the injustices against the faithful of Lithuania reported in the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania have the blessing of the Communist party and the state security organs. To reveal these offenses is considered a crime against the state. This is why my sister's crime and that of Ona Vitkauskaitė lies in the fact that they dared to say that 'the king is naked.'
"Judge, you will perhaps justify your actions by saying that it was not you who directed this spectacle-court case, that you are powerless to change anything. If that is the case, then take a lesson from the two girls. For the sake of truth and justice they heard with calm hearts your unjust sentence and, although entirely innocent, will live in the camps together with the greatest criminals.
"Several times during the trial two real criminals, murderers and rapists, were escorted through the courtroom. They both grew up without faith, but we do not want to be like them. The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania is a call for help from the faithful of Lithuania, that they be allowed to live according to their beliefs, that they might have a firm moral foundation. You, Judge, by sentencing two innocent girls who dared to defend the rights of believers, have contributed to the destruction of our nation's morals and to the development of such persons as those two terrible criminals. If you do not fear the judgment of God, then at least do not forget the coming judgment of the Nation and of History.
December 1, 1980
Rev. Zenonas Navickas
Pastor of Užuguostis"
On December 1, 1980, the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights addressed Document no. 41 to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It stated:
"On November 24-25, 1980, in Vilnius the Supreme Court tried the case of [Miss] Ona Vitkauskaitė and [Miss] Genovaitė Navickaitė. On November 24-26 in Kaišiadorys the circuit session of the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR considered the case of Povilas Buzas and Anastazas Janulis. All four were accused of slandering the Soviet system because they reproduced and distributed the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. Ona Vitkauskaitė was sentenced to one and one-half years of ordinary-regime camp; Genovaitė Navickaitė to two years of ordinary-regime camp; Povilas Buzas to one and one-half years of strict-regime camp; and Anastazas Janulis to three and one-half years of strict-regime camp.
"We would like to take this opportunity to state that during the above-mentioned trials the norms of Soviet laws were violated.
"Article 16 of the Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR requires 'that cases in all courts be tried publicly .... In every instance the verdict is to be announced publicly.' (LSSR Code of Criminal Procedure, V., 1971). Even the closest relatives of the defendants, however, were not informed when the trials were to take place. Despite the fact that both trials were considered open, no one was admitted into the courtroom, except close relatives, security personnel, and their hand-picked people. The verdicts were also handed down behind closed doors guarded by the security police. It should be noted that at the same time in a nearby courtroom of the Supreme Court a murderer was on trial. No security police stood at that door, and everyone was free to enter.
"On November 25 Jonas Vailionis, who had been quietly talking with Fr. Antanas Gražulis in the vestibule of the Supreme Court, was taken into custody by the police and forcibly led out. Why was such police brutality necessary against a completely innocent person? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims: 'No one may be arbitrarily arrested, detained, or exiled' (Article 9).
"The Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR was unable to prove that the defendants had slandered the Soviet system. The court did not have a single witness to support this accusation. They tried to prove that the facts presented in the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania are libelous through the unfounded affirmations of the prosecutors and the judges.
"The Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR sentenced entirely innocent people and once again demonstrated that the Soviet government is unable to fight against the Catholic Church with ideological weapons and occasionally must seize upon administrative and judicial means.
"The faithful of Lithuania are waiting for Soviet laws, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and international agreements signed by the Soviet Union to be honored.
(signed) Priest-members of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights:
Rev. Leonas Kalinauskas, Rev. Jonas Kauneckas, Rev. Algimantas Keina,
Rev. Vaclovas Stakėnas, Rev. Alfonsas Svarinskas, Rev. Sigitas Tamkevičius, Rev. Vincas Vėlavičius."