"Above them, suspended from the ceiling by three loops of wire, was a large red star made of plywood."

Tribunals, a form of People's Courts, were a feature of Soviet socialism.  Consisting of three elected judges, or members, they had the power to make decisions and to enforce sentences.  They have their origin in the Troikas (meaning triumvirates in Russian) initiated by the Cheka but used extensively by the NKVD during the Stalinist period.

The five pointed red star became one of the best known symbols of communism.  Various suggestions as to its meaning have been put forward: the five points representing the five fingers on the hands of workers, or the five continents of the world.  It first became associated with Soviet communism during the Russian civil war (1917-1923), and was later adopted by the Eastern Bloc states after World War II.