The Courier News from Blytheville, Arkansas on September 16, 1953 · Page 2
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The Courier News from Blytheville, Arkansas · Page 2

Blytheville, Arkansas
Issue Date:
Wednesday, September 16, 1953
Page 2
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PAGE TWO BLYTHEVILLE (ARK.) COURIER NEWS WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 18, 19B8 The Oatis Story- Innocent Records Are Twisted In Reds' Questioning of Oatis ^1=^^^^^ eTperlcnces, he has now reached the point where he I, under arrest and the long questioning has started.) (Copyright 1953 by The Associated Press) 1 walked the floor furiously and called myself a fool. It was Tuesday, April 24, 1951, and I was in a Pra-me office of the Czechoslovak Communist secret police, who had arrested me the day before. lion of ANY military information in Czechoslovakia is a type of espionage punishable by three months to three years In prison. (Actually, the law deals with SECRET military information.) I had been made to feel that to. deny facts, however damaging, would only make my situation worse. On a desk lay several little black books they had found. These were books I had kept in line with my , work as an Asso elated Press correspondent. Oil' had names anc telephone num- ' bers of friends in Prague — foreign 'diplomats and 'Czechoslovak citizens. Others contained notes of information I h a c obtained from ? o m e of these people—news anc William N. Oatii background. I had kept the books almost by force of habit. In the United States and Britain, where I had worked before going to Prague 10 months before, it may have been a good habitl. In Czechoslovakia, it certainly was not. One Man Alone Because no*, two police interpreters—one with curly black hair and one with hardly any hair at all . —sat In that office in a big quiet building on narrow Bartholomew Street and asked me questions about those books—those notes, and those names. That was why I berated myself. The police called me a spy. regarded myself rather as a legitimate journalist. But I knew they objected to my gathering news from other than official sources. If I was on the spot for doing that, the people who gave me such news were on the spot, too. I owed it to my news sources to protect them. That was a principle of journalism. Reporters in America had gone to Jail rather than testify against their inform ants. But as I compared my lot with theirs, I was dismayed. They had means to defend themselves: legal advice, public opinion and civil-rights guarantees. •, I had none of those. I was one man alone against a powerful and ruthless force. I knew the secret police could hold a prisoner for years without charge, without a trial and incommunicado. They could hold him till they got what they wanted out of him. What they wanted out of me, to begirt with, was information on my news gathering. "Give tli The Named" "We want to know the names of Czechoslovak citizens who gave you unofficial news," said one policeman. "I can't tell you that," I said. But I felt utterly helpless. That Tuesday I was questioned till long after midnight. The interrogation went on all day Wednesday, too. That night, the man picked up my address book and said, "Which of these people gave you unofficial news?" "I can't tell you." "Journalistic ethics." "If you don't tell us which ones," the man threatened, "we will arrest them all." Two Choices, Both Bail On the face of it, it looked this way: If I gave in, there was a chance some people would get, hurt. If I did not, there was the certainty that more people would be. I said, "All right, I'll tell you." I gave the interpreter a list of names and, with each name, the class of data I had got from that person —such things as "Prague rumors" and "Brno rumors." "Will this set them into trouble?" I asked. "Why should it?" he said. "Why, it's nothing—'Prague rumors,' 'Brno rumors.' " Another interpreter also sought to soothe my anxiety: "Do you think we are stupid? Do you think we would arrest all those people? Do you think we want to make enemies? There are many people we do not arrest. We just call them in and say, 'Look, don't be stupid.' " The First Confession I let myself be lulled by these words—as I also let myself be lulled by that same man's sly suggestion that, once I had given the police what they wanted, they would expel me from the country. That night, I signed my first confession. In my notes was a list of places in and near Prague reported to be. the actual or projected sites of military installations. I had got this list from Lt. Col. George L. Atwood, U.S. military attache, when I had gone to him to check a report from another diplomat along the same line. When the police learned all this, they laid a typewritten sheet before me to sign. It read: 1. I gathered military information on the territory of the Czechoslovak republic. "2. I committed espionage on the territory of the Czechoslofak republic." Short Law Course I refused to sign the paper till I had. been made familiar with the aw on espionage. I wanted to be sure that gathering information, in Itself, constituted espionage. And I wanted to know what penalty my signature would lay me open to. The bald-headed Interpreter pulled a Czech legal pamphlet from file and read me a few paragraphs in English. Whether he garbled the citations or whether I misunderstooc; ilm, I got the Idea that the collec- Quick Relief for . MUSCULAR ACHES T..I STANBACK youn.ll ... lab- l«te oc powdfirt . , . aqaintt afiy preparation youVt tv*r uttd, ALWAYS A DOUBLE FEATURE Phone 4621 Show Starts Weekdayt 7:00 p.m. Sat. & Sun 1:00 AIR CONDITIONED BY REFRIGERATION THEATRE On Our Wide Vision Metallic Screen WED THURS FRI First Blytheville Showing 4 BIG DAYS! Warner Bros.' Sensational Feature in Natural Vision WARNCRCOLOR met • PRANK LOVEJOY • nnun KWK PLUS CARTOON & COMEDY So I signed the paper. I was still wearing my own clothes, eatins meals from the police headquarters canteen and sleeping on a cot in an office, under guard. I was encouraged to believe, against all logic, that I might go on that way—if I only kept talk- Ing. Blindfolded "You don't have to worry about Pankrac," one man told me, naming the Prague prison. On Thursday, I helped the police read my notes, and was allowed to take a tub bath. On Friday, I must have turned stubborn again. That night, a policeman brought me stinking old houseslippers and shapeless ^blue burlap pajamas. When I had put on this prison uniform I was led around the corner to a cell. At about 4 a. m. Saturday, a uniformed 6 'uard banged on my ccM door. He blindfolded me with black cloth-covered goggles and led me into ah Immense blackness. Suddenly out of that blackness, from what seemed an enormous distance, I heard a loud and menacing shout. It was none the less sinister for being in the Czech language, of which I understood hardly a word. At once, just as loud and menacing, came the interpretation: "You are now facing the state power of the Czechoslovak republic!" They Shouted Questions I knew the voices. They were voices of Communist secret policemen that had arrested me five days earlier and questioned me from early morning till late at night on each succeeding day. Now, boasting of their authority, they started In »gatn, three or four I them talking by turns. The chief interrogator snouted questions about the list ot military sites. "Where did you get that?" he demanded. "From Col. Atwood." -What did you want It for?" "Just for my own Information. I didn't intend to use it in a story. There were perhaps two hours like that. Then I was allowed to take off my blindfold. The office had a table and chairs and was not nearly so large as 1 had imagined. Soft morning light came through the second-floor windows. Two plainclothes detectives me some breakfast. Jan's Note Again I was asked about & man named Vladimir Komarek, alias 'Josef Kul- hnnek. I had seen the name Komarek for the first time on a police document a few days before, I had heard about the man from my Czech employes. But I had never met him. All I knew was that he was a Czech refugee from Paris who was In and out of his homeland from time to time on mysterious missions. But three of my employes were .cquainted with him, and they were under arrest. And the police said Komarek was a foreign agent, and that aiother acquaintance of his had snot and killed one of their men some two months before. I insisted I had never even seen fComarek. So they nsxed me about another man—Jan Stransky, a former employe of the United Press In Prague. Stransky, on a Sunday pass from labor camp where he was serving time for plotting to flee the country, had visited my office, saying he was hunting for Russell Jones, the UP chief in Prague. He said he was going to get out of camp a few months, and hoped he could get his job back. I agreed to take a note from him and give it to Jones when I saw the latter. Next day I saw Jones at a "world student congress," and gave it to Favorite of Millions St.Joseph K .•• ^KB H. m m.m ^ ASPIRIN WORLD'S URBESTSEllER AT IOC him. He read it mid ton it up, throwing sway the pieces. Now the police asked: "Do you know what was in that letter?" "No," I said. "I didn't read It." Questioned For 24 Hours They handed me the letter, pasted together. Stransky had advised Jones that he suspected another United Press employe, a Czech, of being a police spy. He had given i (he grounds for his suspicion—Incidents the police had questioned him about before putting him in the camp. "Is that espionage?" an interrogator said. "Yes," I replied. I should have saw, "I don't know." Instead, I gave the answer the police expected; they were interpreting the law for me, and I felt I must accept their interpretation. They had impressed me that it goes hard with the prisoner failing to admit an obvious fact. There followed question after question, hour after hour. I had been under Interrogation 34 hours. I was dead tired, fighting sleep, swaying on my feet, and they would not let me sit down. "you'll Be Sorry" I said. "I'm not' going to answer any more questions." "Why not?" "I'm sleepy. I'm not going to answer any more'questions tonight. I want to go to bed." "You'll be sorry you Said that." They whisked me downstairs, handcuffed my wrists together in front of me and led me out to » small Skoda sedan, Two policemen were in front. Two others were in back, < and I sat between them, blindfolded and bent forward with my head between my knees. I, thought, "Here I go to Pankrac RIJZ THEATRE Manila, Ark. LAST TIME TONIGHT SAFARI DRUMS With Johnny Sheffield as "Bomba' Douglas Kennedy Barbara Bestar THURSDAY ONLY JET JOB '• With Stanley Clements NORTH ARKANSAS District Assembly Church of the Nazarene September 15-16-17 Business Sessions: 8:30rol2-lto5 Dr. D. I. 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