On January 14,1988, in the Kapsukas City Internal Affairs Division, a criminal case was brought against Petras Gražulis, an employee at the church in Sasnava. He was accused of deliberately avoiding military training in the Soviet Army.
A session of the court scheduled for January 26 did not take place, because of three witnesses scheduled to testify against Gražulis, two did not show up. The session was postponed to February 2.
On February 2, relatives and several score friends of Petras Gražulis were admitted into the courtroom. The rest of his friends were forced to freeze outside. They were closely watched by militia and KGB agents, who urged them from time to time to disperse. The crowd was constantly videotaped by television technicians especially summoned from Lithuanian television for the occasion.
The court convened at 10:00 A.M. Z. Pečiulis, the President of the Court, began the session by questioning Petras Gražulis:
Q. "Your surname, name and patronymic."
A. "Petras Gražulis, son of Antanas."
A. "Citizen of Lithuania."
Q. "Not a citizen of the U.S.S.R.?"
Q. "Party affiliation?" A. "I am a Catholic."
Q. "Are you an draftee?"
A. "I do not consider myself as a draftee in the Soviet Army."
Petras Gražulis responded to accusations against him regarding "deliberate" avoidance of military training in his January 1988 Open Letter to U.S.S.R. Defense Minister Yazov:
"Having received a summons from the Kapsukas City Commissar to report January 5,1988, for three months of special training, I understood that they had begun to prepare for February 16. This is a KGB arrangement, so I refused to go for this training. I refused also for the reasons given below:
"1. Believers are persecuted by the state; Fathers Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius are in prison; Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius, banished for twenty-six years now to Žagarė, is not allowed to function as a bishop. Many churches have been confiscated from the faithful and desecrated. A particularly great injustice was done to the faithful by confiscating the Cradle of Lithuanian Christianity, the Cathedral of Vilnius, and turning it into an art gallery, and confiscating the Church of Lithuania's only saint, Saint Casimir, and establishing in it a Museum of Atheism.
"How can you still require that a believer defend the affairs of such a
"2. The demands which I set forth in my petition of November 23 are mere dreams and illusions. There is no hope that in the Soviet Army, consideration be given to the rights of believers. There are grounds for thinking that during training, I could surreptitiously be done away with.
"This intuition is caused by the suspicious circumstances of the death of two young men who distinguished themselves and stood out from others by their enlightened nationalism, their decent conduct, and deep faith. This was the murder of Ričardas Griškaitis, a resident of Kybartai, Komjaunimo 36-54, by hanging (he was buried in Kybartai, November 6,1987). Also, the murder of Antanas Svinkūnas, a resident of Alytus Rayon, Village of Daugirdai. He was buried in Kriokialaukis, November 13,1987.
"Allegedly, they hanged themselves, but having injuries and stab wounds marking their bodies raised doubts. Suicide is incompatible with Christian morality. Some sort of unseen force is concealing the true culprits. People are saying openly that it is the work of the KGB.
"The faithful in the Soviet Army are persecuted, as witness the examp'. of Robertas Grigas, sacristan at the church in Kiaukliai. More than once during his term of service, he was beaten, threatened with death, duty in Afghanistan, and he was ridiculed. Suffering from dysentery, he was kept for four days in an isolation cell on a cement floor, and deliberately deprived of treatment. According to his testimony, all this was not without the knowledge of the KGB.
"During my own compulsory military service in Padolsk, 1977 - 1979, I was the victim of discrimination, and they threatened to take care of me if I publicly professed my faith. My religious books were taken away from me. Discharging me from Non-Commissioned Officers' school, they explained that a religious believer cannot be a sergeant, so I was transferred to Briansk, to the 1270th V.S.O. Labor Battalion.
"The fact that I was under constant surveillance in the army I learned from a friend, who, as he told me himself, was obliged by the KGB to watch me. There was even an attempt on my life.
"Sergei Trusov, recruited by the KGB while serving in the Sanitary Unit, used to blurt out to me while drunk that if I continued to believe in God and to serve in this way, I would not go home.
"Even after I returned from the Soviet Army, the persecutions did not abate: by searches, interrogations, and other methods. For example, I was detained by Alytus Auto Inspection Chief Grusok, as allegedly having been involved in a traffic accident. This was a falsehood, since there was neither a smashed car nor an injured person at the Internal Affairs Department.
"The hidden purpose of my being summoned was to accuse me of profanity and interference with the devotions of the faithful while I was collecting signatures in the church of Alytus II, for the release of prisoners. What nonsense, since I never use profanity, especially in church. There were about twenty individuals collecting signatures who could witness to that. However, the judge must carry out the instructions of the KGB unswervingly, since otherwise, he will suffer himself, so President Sabeckis of the High Court sentenced me to ten days in jail.
"I was also detained in Šakiai. The reason for the detention — suspicion for having participated in the burglary of a garage. However, during the interrogation, over two-and-a-half days, the Chief of Criminal Investigation, a major, did not say a word about the burglary of a garage. Carrying out searches of my person, my automobile, and a friend, they presented no warrant, nor did they record the searches.
"During the searches, they were looking for texts with signatures, and during interrogation, they warned me that we should not collect any more signatures because this is a crime. As we see, everywhere there is trickery, deceit, and lying. Apprehended in one matter, I was interrogated in a completely different one. To dissemble and work through the agency of others - this is the KGB method!
"In February 1987,1 got to participate in the anniversary of the death of Father Juozas Zdebskis. After the commemoration, I drove Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius to Žagarė. When the steering mechanism of the automobile disconnected, we almost had an accident. Trying to repair the defect, I noticed that the other steering cable had parted. Since the reason the steering had parted was a disconnected nut, it was the opinion of specialists that this could not have happened of itself, all the more since the steering of the automobile and the brake system had been checked a couple of days earlier in the Alytus Auto Service. Some sort of mysterious evil forces had tried to arrange this accident in the hope of ridding themselves of Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius and myself.
"All this is incompatible with any kind of humanism. I cannot serve in the army of a system which makes attempts on the life and liberty of nations and individuals.
"3. One more very serious reason which I mentioned in my petition of November 23 is the occupation of Lithuania carried out in 1940. It is impossible to hide this shameful Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact known throughout the world, and as long as the Baltic States are subjugated, it will always remind the world how these nations 'joined' the Soviet Union.
"So, there is an army of occupation in Lithuania, and not the government supported by it, nor the courts nor any other organizations evidence justice by their actions but simply carry out the will of the conqueror." (Text has been shortened - Ed. Note)
After deliberation on the case had finished, the accused, Petras Gražulis, was given the opportunity to make a final statement. Gražulis said, "What can I say in my final statement? I shall soon hear your decision. I do not think that it will be just, since this is impossible on the basis of present-day laws which should be renounced for all time.
"As a Christian, I am sorry for you. Perhaps, you will be forced to act against your own free-will and conscience.
"I ask nothing of you. I only trust in the Lord, and commend myself to prayers." Petras Gražulis thanked his parents for the his faith and his brothers, sisters, guests, and U.S. Senator Moynihan, for their prayers and support.
After an hour's recess, the decision of the court was read, in which Petras Gražulis was convicted of having committed a crime according to Par. 211 Id of the L.S.S.R. Criminal Code. He was given a sentence of ten months in prison.
After the judgement had been read, Gražulis tried to address his friends in the courtroom, inviting them to commemorate February 16 with a ten-day fast, but some men in civilian garb jumped up, twisted his arms and stifled his words.
Gražulis was several times struck in the face. His nose began to bleed. The security agents, seizing him by the hands and feet, carried him out of the courtroom.
Later, during a visit with his brothers, Fathers Antanas and Kazimieras, Petras Gražulis declared that during that struggle, officials had used some sort of chemical substance which rendered him unconscious and effected his mind (one side of his face and that eye were red for several days).
After the trial, militia began with German Shepherd dogs to "protect" the friends of Petras Gražulis assembled in the street. Not far away there were even fire engines waiting for the alarm. A KGB agent in mufti indicated to the militiamen who, from among the group of waiting people, were to be arrested. In this way, several of the more active participants in the Catholic movement were detained: the organist of Gargždai, Bumbulis (later fined 20 rubles). Housekeeper Bronė Valaitytė from the rectory in Sasnava, the sacristan in the parish in Gerdašiai, Gintas Sakavičius, Šiauliai resident Vincas Danielius and Matulaitis from Kapsukas, were sentenced to fifteen days in jail. Antanas Dap-kunas, who came to the trial from Alytus, was fined 10 rubles.
After the trial, in protest against the KGB's unjust action against Gražulis, signatures were gathered under a petition to General Secretary Gorbachev of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R. In the petition, it states, "We are shocked by the brutal judicial treatment handed out to the young Catholic man, Petras Gražulis, February 2, 1988, in the Peoples' Court of Kapsukas. Gražulis refused to report for special military exercise, arguing that his Christian conscience does not allow him to be a member of an army which is shedding innocent blood in Afghanistan, which has occupied his homeland Lithuania, defends atheistic ideology and persecutes the Church.
"The statement of these principles, the court judged as refusal to report for military exercises out of self-interest, without a serious excuse."
To ridicule a person's conscientious beliefs, all the more to accuse of opportunism a young man going to prison, is inhumane and amoral. In other socialist countries, the possibility of alternative service for individuals unable to serve in the army with weapon in hand, for reasons of conscience or other religious convictions, is under consideration. We demand that such a possibility be established in the Soviet Union, and that Petras Gražulis be freed without delay.
Prienai - 909 Pilviškiai - 281
Kalvarija -1072 Sasnava -139
Simnas - 510 Lazdijai - 919
Šakiai - 813 Skriaudžiai -102
Liudvinavas - 274 Kapsukas - 2585
Veiveriai - 91 Krokialaukis - 344
Daukšiai -165 Kazlų Rūda - 201
Šiluva - 560 Alytus II - 3720
Alytus I - 201