|The Gadsden Times, Alabama, 13.11.1978|
Soviets make trial 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 Soviets 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 people 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 on the line has been completed, although it won't begin carrying electricity until next spring.
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.
Several major Russian artists telegraphed Carter to protest Reed's arrest, Tass reported Saturday. The White House says it hasn't received the telegram and would 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."
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 says.
Defense attorney Kenneth Tilson maintains the demonstrators had a legal right to be at the power-line terminal site.
Reed and 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.
Some power line protesters are happy with the attention.
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."