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show trial
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{{refimprove|date=February 2013}}File:Bundesarchiv Bild 151-11-29, Volksgerichtshof, Adolf Reichwein.jpg|thumb|People's Court in Nazi Germany. Trial of Adolf ReichweinAdolf ReichweinA show trial is a public trial in which the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal the presentation of both the accusation and the verdict to the public so they will serve as both an impressive example and a warning to other would-be dissidents or transgressors.OED (2014): "show trial". Show trials tend to be retributive rather than corrective and they are also conducted for propagandistic purposes.WEB,weblink SHOW TRIAL {{!, definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary||language=en-US|access-date=2019-06-19}} The term was first recorded in 1928.WEB,weblink Definition of SHOW TRIAL,, en, 2019-06-19,


File:Protest in Hong Kong against the detention of Liuxiaobo 11Feb.jpg|thumb|Political protest in Hong Kong against the detention of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu XiaoboLiu XiaoboFollowing the formation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Communist Party of China under Mao Zedong began a massive socioeconomic and political campaign called the Great Leap Forward, which lasted circa 1958–1961. During this time, many thousands of people classified as elements of the bourgeois like wealthy landlords were rounded up and given show trials, with some being sentenced to death.{{cn|date=March 2019}}Between 1 and 2 million landlords were executed as counterrevolutionaries in Communist China.Busky, Donald F. (2002). Communism in History and Theory. Greenwood Publishing Group. p.11.After the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, show trials were given to "rioters and counter-revolutionaries" involved in the protests and the subsequent military massacre.Show Trials in China: After Tiananmen Square, Mark Findlay, Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 16, No. 3 (Autumn, 1989), pp. 352-359. Published by Wiley-BlackwellChinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo was given a show trial in 2009."Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo jailed for subversion". BBC News. 25 December 2009.Chinese writer and dissident Ma Jian argued that Gu Kailai, the wife of purged Communist Chinese leader Bo Xilai, was given a show trial in 2012.China’s Show Trial of the Century, Ma Jian, Project Syndicate, 2012-08-20

Middle East

Judiciary in countries such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is completely dependent on the wishes and wants of the governing regimes. During their show trials, Human rights activists and opposition figures are routinely given harsh verdicts in predetermined rulings by the kangaroo courts.WEB,weblink UN Experts: Mass Trial in Bahrain Violated Human Rights – Torture, Enforced Disappearances, and Unfair Trials, 7 January 2019, WEB,weblink Doctors in the dock in Bahrain's show trial, 21 June 2011,, WEB,weblink Saudi Arabia: 14 protesters facing execution after unfair trials, Amnesty International,


{{relevance|date=January 2019}}The United Nations human rights officeNEWS,weblink The New York Times, Nick, Cumming-Bruce, U.N. Expresses Alarm Over Egyptian Death Sentences, 25 March 2014, and various NGOsWEB,weblink Egypt: Shocking Death Sentences Follow Sham Trial – Human Rights Watch,, expressed "deep alarm" after an Egyptian Minya Criminal Court sentenced 529 people to death in a single hearing on 25 March 2014. The judgment was condemned as a violation of international law.NEWS, Egyptian court sentences nearly 530 to death,weblinkweblink" title="">weblink 25 March 2014, Washington Post, 24 March 2014, yes, By May 2014, approximately 16,000 people (and as high as more than 40,000 by one independent count)A coronation flop: President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi fails to bring enough voters to the ballot box, have been imprisoned after the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état in July 2013."Egypt sentences to death 529 supporters of Mohamed Morsi". The Guardian. 24 March 2014. Egypt's ousted President Mohamed Morsi was sentenced to death on 16 May 2015, along with 120 others.NEWS, Hendawi, Hamza, Ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi Sentenced to Death,weblink 22 May 2015, 16 May 2015, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 26 May 2015,


{{relevance|date=January 2019}}After the failed coup attempt in 2016, the government of Turkey blamed the Gülen movement for the coup and authorities have arrested thousands of soldiers and judges.NEWS,weblink The Scale of Turkey’s Purge Is Nearly Unprecedented, 2 August 2016, The New York Times, 7 August 2016, This was followed by the dismissal, detention or suspension of over 160,000 officials.TURKEY FIRES 3,900 IN SECOND POST-REFERENDUM PURGE,weblink 29 April 2017,,

Soviet Union

File:Radek's action.jpg|thumb|210px|Prosecutor General Andrey Vyshinsky (centre), reading the 1937 indictment against Karl Radek during the 2nd Moscow Trial ]]As early as 1922, Lenin advocated staging several "model trials" ("показательный процесс", literally "demonstrative trial", "a process showing an example") in Soviet Russia and the Soviet Ukraine.BOOK, Chase, William, 12: Stalin as producer: the Moscow show trials and the construction of mortal threats, Davies, Sarah, Sarah Davies (historian), Harris, James, Stalin: A New History,weblink Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005, 226-227, 9781139446631, 2018-09-25, Lenin appreciated the power of show trials and was keen to use them [...]. [...] In a February 1922 letter [...] Lenin recommended 'staging a series of model trials' that would administer 'quick and forceful repression' in 'Moscow, Piter [Petrograd], Kharkov and several other important centres'., Show trials were common during Joseph Stalin's political repressions, such as the Moscow Trials of the Great Purge period (1937–38).The Soviet authorities staged the actual trials meticulously. If defendants refused to "cooperate"—i.e., to admit guilt for their alleged and mostly fabricated crimes—they did not go on public trial, but suffered execution nonetheless. This happened, for example during the prosecution of the so-called {{ill|Labour Peasant Party|ru|Трудовая Крестьянская Партия}}, a party invented in the late 1920s by the OGPU, which, in particular, assigned the notable economist Alexander Chayanov (1888-1937, arrested in 1930) to it.Some solid public evidence of what really happened during the Moscow Trials came to the West through the Dewey Commission (1937). After the collapse of the Soviet Union (1991), more information became available. This discredited the New York Times reporter Walter Duranty,{{cn|date=March 2019}} who claimed at the time that these trials were actually fair.

Eastern Europe

File:Proces Pileckiego 1948-2.jpg|thumb|Captain Witold Pilecki, former prisoner at Auschwitz during a show trial conducted by communist authorities in Poland in 1948]]{{See also|Eastern Bloc politics}}Following some dissent within ruling communist parties throughout the Eastern Bloc, especially after the 1948 Tito–Stalin split,{{Harvnb|Bideleux|Jeffries|2007|p=477}}{{Harvnb|Crampton|1997|p=261}} several party purges occurred, with several hundred thousand members purged in several countries.{{Harvnb|Crampton|1997|p=262}} In addition to rank-and-file member purges, prominent communists were purged, with some subjected to public show trials. These were more likely to be instigated, and sometimes orchestrated, by the Kremlin or even Stalin himself, as he had done in the earlier Moscow Trials.{{Harvnb|Crampton|1997|p=263}}Such high-ranking party show trials included those of Koçi Xoxe in Albania and Traicho Kostov in Bulgaria, who were purged and arrested. After Kostov was executed, Bulgarian leaders sent Stalin a telegram thanking him for the help. In Romania, Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu, Ana Pauker and Vasile Luca were arrested, with Pătrăşcanu being executed.


In 2015, a Serbian court invalidated Mihailović's conviction. The court held that it had been a Communist political show trial that was controlled by the government. The court concluded that Mihailović had not received a fair trial. Mihailović was, therefore, fully rehabilitated.WEB,weblink Court rehabilitates WW2-era Chetnik leader Draza Mihailovic - English - on,, 4 January 2019, WEB,weblink Serbia Rehabilitates WWII Chetnik Leader Mihailovic,, 4 January 2019, WEB,weblink "Draza Mihailovic rehabilitated", May 14, 2015, InSerbia.,


Stalin's NKVD emissary coordinated with Hungarian General Secretary Mátyás Rákosi and his ÁVH head the way the show trial of Hungarian Minister of Interior László Rajk should go, and he was later executed.


The Rajk trials in Hungary led Moscow to warn Czechoslovakia's parties that enemy agents had penetrated high into party ranks, and when a puzzled Rudolf Slánský and Klement Gottwald inquired what they could do, Stalin's NKVD agents arrived to help prepare subsequent trials.The Czechoslovak Communist party subsequently arrested Slánský himself, Vladimír Clementis, Ladislav Novomeský and Gustáv Husák (Clementis was later executed). The Slánský show trial began. Slánský and eleven others were convicted together of being "Trotskyist-zionist-titoist-bourgeois-nationalist traitors" in one series of show trials, after which they were executed and their ashes were mixed with material being used to fill roads on the outskirts of Prague. By the time of the Slánský trials, the Kremlin had been arguing that Israel, like Yugoslavia, had bitten the Soviet hand that had fed it, and thus the trials took an overtly anti-Semitic tone, with eleven of the fourteen defendants tried with Slánský being Jewish.{{Harvnb|Crampton|1997|p=265}}The Soviets generally directed show trial methods throughout the Eastern Bloc, including a procedure in which confessions and evidence from leading witnesses could be extracted by any means, including threatening to torture the witnesses’ wives and children.{{Harvnb|Crampton|1997|p=264}} The higher-ranking the party member, generally the more harsh the torture that was inflicted upon him. For the show trial of Hungarian Interior Minister János Kádár, who one year earlier had attempted to force a confession of Rajk in his show trial, regarding "Vladimir" the questioner of Kádár:{{cquote|Vladimir had but one argument: blows. They had begun to beat Kádár. They had smeared his body with mercury to prevent his pores from breathing. He had been writhing on the floor when a newcomer had arrived. The newcomer was Vladimir’s father, Mihály Farkas. Kádár was raised from the ground. Vladimir stepped close. Two henchmen pried Kádár’s teeth apart, and the colonel, negligently, as if this were the most natural thing in the world, urinated into his mouth.}}The evidence was often not just non-existent but absurd, with Hungarian George Paloczi-Horváth’s party interrogators delightedly exclaiming "We knew all the time—we have it here in writing—that you met professor Szentgyörgyi not in Istanbul, but in Constantinople." In another case, the Hungarian ÁVH secret police also condemned another party member as a Nazi accomplice with a document that had actually been previously displayed in glass cabinet of the Institute of the Working Class Movement as an example of a Gestapo forgery. The trials themselves were "shows", with each participant having to learn a script and conduct repeated rehearsals before the performance. In the Slánský trial, when the judge skipped one of the scripted questions, the better-rehearsed Slánský answered the one which should have been asked.


As the end of the 1989 Romanian Revolution neared, First Secretary of the Communist Party Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena were condemned to death and shot dead by a firing squad after a Stalinist-style trial in a kangaroo court.Nicolae și Elena Ceaușescu: „Împreună am luptat, să murim împreună!“ Adevărul, 19 December 2009.

Western Europe

  • The Cadaver Synod was the posthumous trial of Catholic Pope Formosus held in 897.{{cn|date=January 2019}}
  • The Dreyfus affair was a show trial in France in 1894, where a Jewish captain, Alfred Dreyfus, was accused and convicted of spying for the German Empire and exiled.{{cn|date=January 2019}}
  • The Kapenguria Six were leading Kenyan nationalists who were subjected to a show trial by the British in 1952–53, and imprisoned thereafter in Northern Kenya.{{cn|date=January 2019}}

Nazi Germany

Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazi government established a large number of Sondergerichte that were frequently used to prosecute those hostile to the regime. The People's Court was a kangaroo court established in 1934 to handle political crimes after several of the defendants at the Reichstag fire Trial were acquitted. Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 12,000 Germans were killed on the orders of the "special courts" set up by the Nazi regime.Peter Hoffmann "The History of the German Resistance, 1933-1945"p.xiii

See also

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  • {{Citation|last1=Bideleux|first1=Robert|last2=Jeffries|first2=Ian|title=A History of Eastern Europe: Crisis and Change|publisher=Routledge|year=2007|isbn=0-415-36626-7}}
  • {{Citation|last=Crampton|first=R. J.|title=Eastern Europe in the twentieth century and after|publisher=Routledge|year=1997|isbn=0-415-16422-2}}
  • Hodos, George H. Show Trials: Stalinist Purges in Eastern Europe, 1948–1954. New York, Westport (Conn.), and London: Praeger, 1987.
  • Showtrials Website of the European Union
  • Balázs Szalontai, Show trials. In: Ruud van Dijk et al. (eds.), Encyclopedia of the Cold War (London and New York: Routledge, 2008), pp. 783–786. Downloadable at

External links

{{Authority control}}{{Miscarriage of Justice}}

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