On March 25, 1981, the Lithuanian Helsinki Watch Group member Mečislovas Jurevičrus was arrested in Šiauliai at 6-10 Spindulys St. The apartment was searched in the presence of the interrogator for special cases, Jurisconsult Norkūnas, Police Lieutenant A. Auga, four Chekists, and the witnesses Vytautas Šlaminas and Kęstutis Snyka.
The following items were confiscated:
- 19 tapes and cassettes
- a German postage stamp
- 20 stamps
- five telegrams of varied content
- some 50 photographs (of a religious procession)
- a sheet of notepaper with telephone numbers
- the book Žvaigždė (Star)
- 20 issues of the magazine Savaitė (Week) (1942-44)
- prewar newspapers
- two maps of Lithuania
- 4 pieces of paper with prayers
- 6 small booklets containing religious texts.
The charge under Article 199/3 of the Lithuanian SSR Criminal Code was applied for on April 1, 1981, and the charge laid on May 22.
Letter from Cell no. 163
"G. J. Kr.
"I've found a chance to write you a short letter. First of all, I would like to thank everyone for their support, particularly the spiritual support, which is the most important. My thanks to all who visit my family. Everyone is again burdened with additional worries. I would like to know how Gemma is doing. It is hard for her because it is her first time, and with criminals, too. How many were arrested? — only the two of us? I know about Vyturėlis (Vytautas Vaičiūnas, an engineer — Ed.); he was arrested on the same day. It is also difficult for him, for it is his first time also. But his spirit is strong. I saw Vyturėlis when we were taken from the Vilnius KPZ. He didn't see me. His good spirits cheered me considerably, and I thought he was truly a spiritual vyturėlis (lark). I know nothing more about him. Now a little about my life. I thank God for everything He grants. As I offer up my small sacrifice, I remember everyone, everyone in freedom. I very much feel all of your prayers, which are so necessary. I am experiencing some heart problems. My spirits are good; I am not concealing my convictions. At first I was thrown into a cell with two murderers and thieves and hooligans. I explained to them why I was arrested — about carrying the cross, about the processions. They all began to curse, saying that the Communists were completely losing their minds claiming there is religious freedom but imprisoning innocent people. When everyone would quiet down in the evening and go to sleep, I would pray, kneeling on my bed (I slept in the top bunk). Once the guards attacked me, but the prisoners stood up for me: 'Leave him alone. You see the man is praying, so let him pray.' The guards left. I was later transferred to another cell. I spent one month with habitual thieves. They robbed me of my warm underwear. Some would steal my belongings, and then others would return them. A great deal of patience was required. Once they were about to beat me up but later apologized. Even in that cell I experienced great spiritual joy although I was surrounded by foul language. At times I had to stuff my ears with cotton, but it didn't help. On April 30 I was transferred to my present cell. Here the people are quiet but totally lacking in ideas. This cross is more difficult than the first, but it is now easier to bear because I am not alone. We will remain faithful to our homeland only as long as we remain faithful to Christ. I was summoned for interrogation several times but refused to testify. They asked who organized the processions. I gave them a short reply: Christ! This year they plan to prosecute whoever marches in the front ranks. I don't know when the procession will be held this year; I would like to participate with my prayers.
"I'm interested, how did the work on the Hill of Crosses turn out?
"I was informed on June 4 that my case was remanded to the Supreme Court on May 29.1 now await the trial; I don't know where it will be held. I can't get to see the doctor because he is supposedly on holiday. I once asked the nurse whether one could be summoned from abroad. She retorted that I could go there myself.
"Please convey my best wishes to everyone!
On June 25,1981, in Vilnius, the Supreme Court began to hear the criminal case of Mečislovas Jurevičius. Only people whose names were on a prepared list were admitted into the courtroom. Only close relatives of Jurevičius were allowed to attend the proceedings: his wife, brother, daughter, and son-in-law. All of the other spectators were complete strangers, mostly Russians summoned by the KGB to fill the space and create a depressing atmosphere for the defendant. The defendant's friends remained outside the door, which was guarded by a Chekist whose face is very familiar to everyone but who is afraid to identify himself and is, therefore, called "Beria" by everyone. In the interest of fairness, it must be admitted that all the Chekists were quite polite, with the exception of "Beria," who paled and glared every time he saw a new person near him asking to be admitted into the court chamber. No one openly photographed or admonished the assembled people as they quietly stood and prayed.
The trial was presided over by Judge Ignotas, and the plaintiff for the state was, as always, Prosecutor Bakučionis.
Before Jurevičius was led into the chamber, eight witnesses were informed they would have to testify first because at 2 p.m. they would have to leave for another trial (in Sirvintai, where Vytautas Vaičiūnas, an engineer, was being tried).
Jurevičius was escorted into the courtroom by three soldiers, one of whom stood behind the defendant to prevent his looking around the courtroom.
When asked by the judge whether the defendant had any requests, Jurevičius declined the services of a defense attorney, who then left.
When the judge requested biographical information, Jurevičius replied that he was born in 1927 in independent Lithuania, the township of Šakyna, the village of Mimaičiai, and was a Lithuanian citizen.
The Indictment (abridged)
Indictment no. 09-2-006-81 charges
Jurevičius, Mečislovas, son of Jurgis,
under Article 199/3 of the Lithuanian SSR Criminal Code
The criminal case was instituted on January 12,1981, by the Prosecutor's Office of the Lithuanian SSR under Article 199/3 of the Lithuanian SSR Criminal Code.
It has been established that:
On July 22,1979, Mečislovas Jurevičius organized group actions which involved an obvious disregard of legitimate demands of government representatives, which severely violated public order and disrupted traffic, and he actively participated in them himself, i.e. contrary to the law, without a permit from appropriate government organs, exploiting religious sentiments, he organized a march of believers, including the carrying of crosses, from the town of Meškuičiai in Šiauliai rayon to the Jurgaičiai Hill (so-called Hill of Crosses), and, in clear violation of legitimate demands of government representatives to discontinue these group actions, himself actively participated in them as an organizer: he directed the participants, telling them how to behave, issuing various orders; thereby by his example and concrete actions he instigated others not to obey explicit orders but to continue the illegal actions although they grossly violated public order, outraged bystanders, and disrupted traffic.
On August 26,1979, Jurevičius organized group actions which involved an obvious disregard of legitimate demands of government representatives, which severely violated public order and disrupted traffic in the town of Tytuvėnai, on the road between Tytuvėnai and Šiluva, and in the town of Šiluva, and actively participated in them himself, i.e. contrary to the law, without a permit from appropriate government organs, exploiting religious sentiments, he organized a march of believers present in the Tytuvėnai church to Šiluva, and, in clear violation of the legitimate demands of government representatives to discontinue these group actions, himself participated in them as an organizer: he directed the participants; stepping from the line of march into the middle of the road, he told other participants how to behave; and issued various orders; thereby by his example and concrete actions he instigated others not to obey explicit orders but to continue the illegal actions although they severely violated public order, outraged bystanders, and disrupted traffic.
On August 24, 1980, Jurevičius actively participated in group actions which were conducted without the permission of appropriate government organs and which severely violated public order and disrupted traffic in the town of Tytuvėnai, on the road between Tytuvėnai and Šiluva, and in the town of Šiluva, i.e., exploiting religious sentiments and in clear violation of the demands of government representatives to discontinue the march, he instigated others to participate in the illegal procession and issued various orders.
When informed of the charge under Article 199/3 of the Lithuanian SSR Criminal Code, Jurevičius pleaded innocent to the charges against him. He refused to give any detailed or thorough testimony regarding the marches held and merely stated he had participated in the procession as an ordinary pilgrim.
Despite the fact that Jurevičius pleaded innocent to the charges against him, his guilt has been fully established by the testimony of witnesses and physical evidence (photographic film and photographs) which shows Jurevičius during the processions and in which he is unequivocally seen as the organizer and leader of the marches.
1. Mečislovas Jurevičius organized and led the July 27, 1979, procession from MeSkuiciai to the "Hill of Crosses."
The Executive Committee of the Šiauliai Rayon Soviet of People's Deputies indicated in its report that no one approached the executive committee to obtain a permit for the procession and such a permit was not issued.
The witness E. Žulpa testified that on the morning of July 22, 1979, drivers began to telephone the Internal Affairs Department complaining that the procession was disrupting traffic. Upon arriving at the scene, he noted that the procession was in fact disrupting the flow of traffic and violating public order. He and the chairman of the executive committee warned the organizers of the procession; however, the group actions were not discontinued. Because the procession was endangering the safe flow of traffic, he was forced to stop traffic on the route taken by the march.
The witness V. Plungė testified that he photographed the procession from Meškuičiai to the "Hill of Crosses."He saw that a short, gray-haired man wearing glasses and dressed in a black suit was in charge of the march. Two photographic films were taken from Plunge from which prints were developed showing Jurevičius as the organizer and leader.
The witness [Miss] L. Lukosevičiūtė testified that she saw a man in the Meškuiciai churchyard whom she had never seen before, short, gray-haired, wearing glasses and dressed in a dark suit, lining up the people into a column, giving instructions and orders and telling others how to behave during the march. Township Executive Committee Chairman A. Juzikis warned him. Some five hundred people participated in the procession; a cross was carried in front.
In a line-up she recognized Jurevičius as the organizer and leader of the procession.
Similar testimony was given by the witnesses G. Juodzevičius and V. Gentis. They also identified Jurevičius as the organizer and leader of the procession.
The witness A. Juzikis testified that many people arrived and assembled in the Meškuičiai churchyard. A short, gray-haired man, wearing glasses and dressed in a black suit who organized everything stood out among them. He issued various instructions, line everyone up into a column and was obeyed. Since no one had issued a permit for such a procession, he, as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Soviet of People's Deputies, warned the organizers. In spite of this, the group actions continued. Singing loudly and carrying a cross, the participants took the road from Meškuičiai toward Jurgaičiai Castle Mound.
The witnesses J. Tiknius and S. Jokubaitis testified that the procession was organized and led by a short gray-haired man with glasses. He continued his role as organizer and leader even when warned by Executive Committee Chairman Juzeliūnas.
2. On August 26, 1979, a procession of pilgrims was organized from Tytuvėnai to Šiluva. Some one thousand persons participated.
The Executive Committee of the Raseiniai Rayon Soviet of People's Deputies indicated in its report that no one approached them for a permit to hold the march and such a permit was not issued.
The witness A. Mikalauskas testified that although a permit had not been obtained, a procession of believers was held on August 26, 1979, from the Tytuvėnai church to Šiluva. The flow of traffic came to a complete stop when the procession crossed Tarybos Street. The marchers sang loudly. He, as chairman of the Tytuvėnai Township Executive Committee, used a loudspeaker and warned everyone that marches are forbidden and ordered them to disperse. He repeated this warning three times.
The witness V. Navickas testified that the procession at first completely stopped traffic on Tarybos Street and that the participants sang loudly. They completely ignored the warning.
Similar testimony was given by the witness V. Mišeikis.
The witness A. Vezniakas testified that the march was organized and led by a man he had never seen before. He was short, gray-haired, and wore glasses. When presented with photographs of men of about the same age wearing glasses, Vezniakas recognized Jurevičius as the leader and organizer.
The witness D. Gaižutis testified that the procession was organized and led by a man he had never seen before. The procession disrupted traffic and was noisy. He recognized Jurevičius from a photograph as the organizer and leader.
Similar testimony was given by the witness J. Jonaitis. He also recognized Jurevičius from a photograph as the organizer and leader of the march.
The witness J. Jonikas testified that the procession disrupted traffic. As he watched the march, he noticed the organizer and leader: a short man with glasses. He recognized Jurevičius as the organizer and leader from a photograph.
The witness A. Rimelaitis testified that the procession stopped traffic on Tarybos Street in the town of Tytuvėnai, and he was unable to pass through.
The witnesses [Miss] A. Simkevičiūtė and [Miss] Gleveckaitė testified that the procession disrupted traffic.
3. M. Jurevičius actively participated in the August 24, 1980, procession of believers from Tytuvėnai to Šiluva.
The executive committees of the Soviets of people's deputies of the rayons of Kelme and Raseiniai did not issue permits for the procession.
The report on the religious procession indicates that the march disrupted and impeded traffic and violated public order. The procession participants ignored the demands of government representatives to stop the group activity.
The witnesses H. Juzeliūnas and S. Stūrys testified that they warned the participants through a loudspeaker and ordered them to disperse. The march impeded traffic and violated public order.
The witness V. Mišeikis testified that the procession blocked all traffic on Tarybos Street in the town of Tytuvėnai.
ThewitnessesJ.Daniliauskas;[Mrs.]Nijolė Mikolaitytė-Mackevičienė, daughter of Juozas; [Mrs.] N. A. Laniauskienė; and A. Lapienis testified that the procession disrupted traffic.
Similar testimony was given by P. Prišmontas.
The witnesses E. Urbonas, R. Ilevičius, and G. Bružas testified that they were urged to participate in the procession by Jurevičius, whom they recognized from a photograph.
A report from the scene of the incident indicated that in the town of Tytuvėnai on Tarybos Street by house no. 6 there is an area 6 meters wide for vehicular traffic. This area gradually narrows, and between houses nos. 34 and 25 it is only 3.5 meters wide.
The report of the Kelmė Internal Affairs Department indicated that the road from Tytuvėnai to Šiluva is 8 kilometers long. It is a major thoroughfare intersected by other roads.
Jurevičius's last place of employment reported that he had no administrative demerits until the end of 1974. On November 10 and December 8, 1974, he did not report to work, stating he had to observe religious holidays. He was issued a reprimand for his absences; however, he was absent from work again on December 25 and January 6. He was dismissed as a result.
No circumstances attenuating Jurevičius's responsibility have been established.
The circumstance aggravating Jurevičius's responsibility is his previous criminal record.
Jurevičius, Mečislovas, son of Jurgis; born on October 29, 1927, into a small landowner's family in the village of Mimaičiai, Šiauliai Rayon; a Lithuanian; not a member of the Communist party; married: four years of secondary education; has not served in the military; previously sentenced in 1950 by a military tribunal under Article 63/3 of the Russian SFSR Criminal Code to twenty-five years' imprisonment; residing in Šiauliai at 6-10 Spindulys St.; employed as sacristan by the 2arenai-Latveliai churches; a USSR citizen; by his criminal actions committed a crime as outlined in article 199/3 of the Lithuanian SSR Criminal Code.
The indictment was written in Vilnius on May 25,1981. The criminal case is to be tried by the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR.
The indictment was drawn up by A. Jucys, interrogator for special cases of the Lithuanian SSR Prosecutor's Off ice. It was confirmed on May 27, 1981, by Lithuanian SSR Assistant Prosecutor A. Novikov and Lithuanian SSR Prosecutor A. Kairelis.
While testifying the witnesses often gave conflicting testimony. Some said that the people marched in a disorderly fashion and occupied the entire road; others asserted that the march had been orderly with four or five people abreast in rows occupying only half of the street, and that cars were able to pass.
Following testimony by the witnesses, three volumes of case records were quickly flipped through. This is how the court and the public were "thoroughly" acquainted with the physical evidence and other matter of the case.
On June 26 Prosecutor Bakučionis spoke. He did not pass up the opportunity to accuse Jurevičius of having participated in the nationalistic opposition movement against the Russian occupation and recalled all the libel published in the Soviet press about Jurevičius. Concluding, the prosecutor emphasized that Jurevičius would not admit his guilt and that he had said that upon his return he would take part in similar processions and proclaim the faith. Therefore, he was an especially dangerous criminal to society and must be isolated from society for three years, serving the sentence in strict-regime labor camps.
The defendant informed the Soviet court officials and guards, "You are more cruel than the guards of the czarist era. My father himself said that he once gave some prisoners a loaf of bread and the guards allowed it, while yesterday my daughter attempted to give me something to eat and drink, for I was very hungry, but your guards did not permit it."
The Final Statement of Jurevičius, June 26,1981
"I was born in October 1927 in independent Lithuania in the township of Šakyna, the village of Mimaičiai, into a small landowner's family. Life was difficult because from childhood I hired myself out to various farmers. Later, when the Russians took over the government, I was unjustly slandered and tried without witnesses. I was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison, but my case was reviewed six years later, and I was vindicated. I was released because it was recognized that Stalin had made a mistake. Could I, at fourteen years of age, have gone around with a gun and led some sort of group?
"Now thirty years later I am on trial again. 1 am on trial not for hooliganism, not for murder or theft but because of my religion. I am being tried because I tell you the truth to your face, because 1 refuse to renounce my convictions.
"A famous man once said, 'For speaking three minutes of truth, one can even die.'
("But speak at least three minutes of truth. After that let them kill you." E. Yevtushenko — Ed.)
"I tell you the truth to your face, you atheistic officials, and as a consequence I shall suffer three years in prison, if I am not murdered there first. I will be with murderers and hooligans although political prisoners should have a separate colony.
"In a Lukiškės prison cell I was locked up with murderers, who were astonished to learn why I was there. This is what they told me; I quote their words: 'Those stupid Communists have completely lost their minds!'
"When I prayed, killers stood up for me against a guard. This once again demonstrates the strength of religion. It is unfortunate that few priests are put on trial. Placed in that world of criminals, they could propagate decency and the light of religion.
"At this same time, but in another Lithuanian city, a friend who participated with me in that same procession is also on trial. Why are we being tried separately? This once again shows your fear and unintentionally adds to the propagation of religion because believers, my friends and his, gather outside both courtroom doors. They are not allowed into the court although the trial proceedings are considered open. My relatives were admitted into the courtroom on the basis of a list, and all the others were hired spectators, security agents, most of them Russians so they would understand nothing. There was not a single believer among the witnesses; all were security police employees and Communists. Yes, I am being tried by the minority. Statistics have been compiled by the Marxists themselves which show that 30 percent of Lithuania's inhabitants are atheists and 70 percent are believers. This atheistic minority is sitting in judgement over me because the majority is feared — all the believers are feared. If a man is a believer, he is a patriot of his country, and it is all the more difficult to destroy his national identity.
"All our pilgrims marched with only one thought in mind, the sobriety and morality of the Lithuanian nation, and not with anti-Soviet slogans or hooliganistic intent. Many young people and children marched. If all our youth believed in God, Lithuania would have fewer murders and less promiscuity and drunkenness.
"I am very pleased that you consider me one of the organizers. This is a great honor for me, a simple worker with only four years of secondary education. Think logically. Is it possible to organize a crowd of a thousand persons from all corners of Lithuania if no one wants to march? People marched of their own free will, risking possible prosecution. But let us consider who marches in the May Day demonstration: a handful of Communists and all others who are threatened with administrative fines if they fail to participate.
"You are putting me on trial for religion, and I thank you, for that merely indicates that the faith is being revived in Lithuania. These marches too prove that believers are growing in numbers. Even the witnesses testified that such processions did not exist before.
"You are even afraid of the Cross, as evidenced by the frequent destruction on the Hill of Crosses. It has been decorated with crosses since 1904. Neither the czar nor the Fascists destroyed them. Since antiquity the pagan Lithuanians offered sacrifices there. But when the Russians came, they demolished everything, and not just once. Nevertheless the Hill of Crosses still stands, and the number of crosses is increasing. The people carry and erect them on the hill without coercion. The razing of the Hill of Crosses merely inspired me to believe even more. I carried my first cross at night. It stood for only two hours before being torn down, which encouraged me to bring another one. Later I carried a cross in broad daylight, no longer afraid. And you will see that many a cross will sprout, and crowds of people will go to Šiluva many a time although I, as an 'organizer,' will be behind bars. I tell you: If I return alive, I will continue to go as I have in the past!
"You are putting me on trial for religion and I thank you! That merely shows that the faith is being reborn in Lithuania. It is a great honor for me to sit on the same bench as [Miss] Stanelytė, [Miss] Sadūnaitė, Kovalev, and Skuodis. I ask the judge not to reduce my sentence but to give me three years in a strict-regime colony as the prosecutor requested. Although this sentence is tantamount to death for me — my health has deteriorated severely (in prison everyone ignored my requests to let me see a doctor) — I am happy to be tried for this.
"I will not try to avenge myself but will pray for you, that your children not go astray. I am prepared to suffer in order that all people begin to believe in God and that my trial opens the eyes of many an atheist."
At 3 p.m. the verdict was read: three years of correctional labor to be served in a strict-regime camp.
Upon hearing the verdict, Jurevičius stated out loud: "Thank you! This is in honor of God and Lithuania!"