Veteran security officer sentenced

  • 2002-11-07
  • Sergei Stepanov

A Tallinn city court found Juri Karpov, a former Soviet security service officer, guilty of deporting 41 Estonian residents to Siberia in March 1949. The court sentenced the eighty-year-old man on Oct. 31 to eight years in prison.

However, due to the defendant's faltering health, the court ruled not to administer the sentence and instead give Karpov a three year probationary period.

Karpov denied his guilt, and stated on numerous occasions that he had been responsible for dealing only with illegal immigrants and people suspected of espionage.

"The 1949 deportation plan was classified information. I did not participate in drafting it, and I learned about it just a couple of days before it was executed," said a defiant Karpov.

Karpov served in the MGB, the predecessor of the KGB intelligence and security service, as the senior officer in the investigation department of Harju county.

The prosecutor claimed Karpov's signature was on numerous documents confirming delivery of persons to be deported to the Keila railway station not far from Tallinn.

Karpov was adamant. "My duty was to learn addresses of persons my superiors were looking for...I never visited the rural areas from where the people were deported, and I did not speak, nor do I now speak, Estonian, and so I had problems communicating with locals," said Karpov during the Oct. 31 court session.

The case has caused of wave of controversy, particularly in Russia, where such trials are routinely condemned.

Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a Nov. 1 press-release that Karpov's case was purely political and did not comply with international law.

"It is clear that Estonia's political and judicial system can still sentence a person whose innocence is beyond doubt," said the ministry in the statement.

In Tallinn on Nov. 4 on a trade negotiation mission, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko lashed out at the trials. "These trials are politically motivated," she said.

In June the Estonian parliament approved a law proclaiming that the Soviet national security service and related institutions were criminal.

According to the legislation those found guilty of crimes against humanity may face from eight years to life in prison.

In all, Estonia's national security police have accused 17 people of crimes against humanity during the Soviet occupation from the early 90s to Oct. 2002. Five persons, including Karpov, have been convicted of deportation, and another of murder. The rest are awaiting trial.

The most recent trial took place in the southern town of Valga, where Vladimir Pennart was accused of murdering three anti-Soviet partisans in the 1950s.

Slamming the trial as politically motivated, Russia's Foreign Ministry provided Pennart with counsel. However, the Haapsalu city court subsequently found him guilty of deportation of 23 people in 1949, and sentenced him to an eight-year suspended sentence in January 1999.

Johannes Klaassepp was the first person convicted of crimes committed during the Soviet occupation period.

Vladimir Loginov and Vassili Beskov were convicted in March 1999 for crimes against humanity as NKVD officers in Estonia.

The case of Mikhail Neverovski, a former NKVD officer accused of the deportation of 279 people, is still awaiting trial.

Vassili Riis and Idel Jakobson, who stood trial five years ago on charges that they helped organize deportations, died during the litigation process.

Eight people are set to stand trial on the island of Saaremaa, in connection with mass deportations to Siberia, on Nov. 19. Initially, the police had a list of 12 persons, but only nine are still alive. One cannot stand trial for reasons of ill health.

If all suspects stand trial as a group, it will be the largest deportation case so far in the Baltic countries.