An international storm of protest has blown up over the recent jailing of five Czech dissidents who signed the so-called "Human Rights Charter 77".
GV French leftists seated at start of news conference
SV Newsmen seated at conference
MCU Arianne Marchaukime listening
MV M. Jean Dieudonne
MV Patrice Chereau
MV M. Alain Chalier
MV Jean Pierre Faye
GV Conference ZOOM INTO Jean Yves Potel speaking in French with journalist listening (3 SHOTS)
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Background: An international storm of protest has blown up over the recent jailing of five Czech dissidents who signed the so-called "Human Rights Charter 77". Many Western Communist parties are among those to criticise the Czech government over the affair. But government officials in Prague say critics should not get "carried away by secondary interests". In France, Foreign Minister Jean Francois Poncet, has cancelled a trip to Prague in protest. And a group of well-known French personalities say they were expelled from Prague when they attempted to defend the dissidents.
SYNOPSIS: The group spoke to newsmen on Thursday (25 October) about what they said were the injustices of the trial.
The leftists included French theatre director Patrice Chereau, Professor Jean Dieudonne of the Academy of Science, sculptor Alain Chalier, and writer Jean-Pierre Faye.
The group said they had been literally kidnapped in Prague in the dead of night and thrown into a police vehicle. The were then abandoned in a forest close to the German border, and had to continue on foot to the West German border.
Another of the group, Jean-Yves Potel--an editor of the French Communist newspaper "Rouge" -- also addressed the news conference. He said the defendants were hardly allowed to speak and were constantly interrupted by the judge. Monsieur Potel said both the judge and the prosecutor were the same two involved in trials after the 1968 uprising in Prague, against the Communist regime.
One of the accused, Professor Vaclav Benda, had made, Monsieur Potel said, a declaration at the trial. Mr. Benda said that although Czech law allowed people to draw up petitions, this could not be done in foreign countries. Czech subjects had to send the petition to the state, and could not circulate it elsewhere.
Mr. Benda apparently then asked the President of the tribunal why he waited for one year after the circulation of the petition to charge the signatories -- if Charter 77 was subversive.
The trial -- technically called an open court -- was closed to diplomats, journalists and foreign observers. The few relatives granted admission could not take notes. The five sentences totalled nineteen and a half years.