|The Blade, Toledo/Ohio 13.11.1978|
Power-Line Protest Seen As Rights Fight
USSR Attuned To Folk Singer In Minnesota
Trial Of 19 For Trespass Now International Affair
BUFFALO, Minn. (AP) - It seems such a simple case - 19 persons standing trial on trespassing charges. But the Soviet Union's interest in a folk singer has made it an international affair.
The Russians call folk singer Dean Reed a freedom fighter. And the Soviet news agency Tass is covering the trial - saying that Reed's only offense was his "activ struggle" for political prisoners in the United States.
To most Minnesotans, he's just one of 19 persons being tried in Wright County Court here in an Oct. 29 protest against a 427-mile power line stretching from North Dakota to Minnesota.
The power line has promted many protests - from farmers who say their property rights are being violated and from environmentalists. Construction an the line has been completed, although it won't begin carrying electricity until next spring.
Apparent Soviet Counterattack
But it's Reed, not the power line, that concerns the Soviets, in what appears to be a counterattack on President Carter's human-rights campaign.
Reed an 11 of the demonstrators refused to post $300 bail each and went on a hunger strike after their arrests. They were released when the trial began last week. Conviction on the charge carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Several major Russian artists telegraphed President Carter to protest Reed's arrest, Tass reported Saturday. The White House says it hasn't received the telegram and will have no comment.
The telegram, Tass reported, said: "Together with all people of good will, we express our indignation over the act of arbitrariness against Dean Reed. We hope, Mr. President, that you will use your influence to achieve the release of the courageous fighter for human rights."
And the Soviet youth newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, printed Reed's photograph, accompanied by a story headlined: "He sang for us."
Moved To East Germany In 1960s
Reed, 40, first became popular in the Soviet Union after he moved to East Germany in the 1960s and began appearing in various Soviet cities. He now lives in Studio City, Calif.
Saying he came to Minnesota to help farmers fight for their rights, Reed agrees with the Soviets' claim that he is a political prisoner.
"I consider myself a political prisoner ... I am not here because of trespassing. I accuse the large corporations and power companies of one large trespass," he said.
Kenneth Tilson, defense attorney, maintains that the demonstrators had a legal right to be at the power-line terminal site.
Alice Tripp, a farmer's wife from Belgrade, Minn., who has been a leader in the power-line protest more than two years, said:
"I think he had a friend in the group. He was moved enough to joint it ... It's not his movement, but we're glad to have him along."