H. Stuart Hughes, professor of History, yesterday described the government's case against convicted spy Robert A. Soblen as a "judicial scandal."
"I don't know if Soblen is innocent," Hughes said. "What I do know is that he hasn't been proved guilty."
Soblen, a New York psychiatrist, was convicted in July of wartime espionage for the Soviet Union. Judge William B. Herlands sentenced him to life imprisonment. Soblen, 61, has advanced lymphatic leukemia and a life expectancy of less than a year. He claims he is innocent.
Hughes Testifies for Defense
Early in October, Hughes, a lieutenant colonel in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, testified on behalf of Soblen at a hearing for a retrial. He contended that Soblen's alleged contacts in the OSS, Dr. Hans Hirschfeld and Horst Baerensprung, could not have had access to military secrets because they worked in the biographical records unit, which Hughes called the least secret part of the OSS.
A government witness, Mrs. Johanna Koenan Beker, testified at the trial that she carried information on the Manhattan project from Hirschfeld and Baerensprung to Soblen.
Baerensprung died several years ago.
Hirschfeld, an important member of the German Socia Democratic Party and recently an aide to Mayor Willy Brand of West Berlin, strongly denied Mrs. Beker's charges durin FBI interrogation in 1959 and under oath before a New York Grand Jury in 1960.
Hughes pointed out that Hirschfeld's denials were never introduced as evidence at the Soblen trial. He said this omission shows the Justice Department to be "inefficient at best at worst, it is a case of suppressing evidence."
Case Scandalously Conducted
"The conduct of the Department of Justice in security cases has often been irresponsible," Hughes continued. "Such cases are an easy avenue of advancement for judges and United States attorneys. The temptation to stretch a point to gain a conviction is so great that they often succumb to it."
"This case was so scandalously conducted by the government," he added, "that citizens with relevant information had to come forward."
Judge Herlands is expected to give a decision shortly on Soblen's request for a retrial. "The case looks so fishy," Hughes declared, "that even if a new trial is not ordered, Sobin will probably win on appeal."