“A photo of a naked child is not pornography” (Victor Anufriev)

7×7 Horizontal Russia, 29 December 2016

Yury Dmitriev, head of Memorial in Karelia, is to remain in custody. On 29 December, the Supreme Court of Karelia heard an appeal for a change in the measure of restraint imposed on the historian until mid-February 2017. He was arrested for allegedly preparing child pornography. The investigation claims that he took pictures of his naked foster daughter. Dmitriev declares he is innocent of the charge.

Dmitriev’s defence attorney says that the photographs were intended for the Agency for Guardianship and Foster Care. The photos he took over several years monitored the physical condition of his foster daughter. Now these materials form the basis for a criminal case. In the corridor of the Supreme Court, Moscow attorney Victor Anufriev offered his commentary to the press.

V.A. – We had no particular hope that a change would be made in the measure of restraint today. What the [2001] Criminal Procedural Code says about the measure of restraint and how it’s implemented today have diverged considerably. When they will be more in line no one can say. The materials that reach the court about choosing custody as the measure of restraint are, therefore, upheld.

7×7 – How is Yury Dmitriev?

V.A. – I saw him on 16 December. Now I’m on my way to see him again. From what I could tell from the video conference he is okay [Dmitriev did not attend the hearing but took part from the detention centre by video-link]. He’s a strong character. I think he’ll withstand all these ordeals with honour.

7×7 – What is his defence going to do now?

V.A. – I shall defend him in accordance with the law. As of today, I do not know what in his actions is considered to constitute a crime. When parents take photos of a child, whether they are foster parents or not, it is not a crime. Those pictures must have been taken for the purpose of preparing pornographic materials. A photo of a child, even a naked child, and pornography are totally different things.

Only today will I see, as prescribed by law, all the materials that the investigator has in his possession. On 16 December they would not show me, i.e. the law was not observed. As soon as a defence lawyer takes on a case the investigator is obliged to present him with those materials. Instead, I was forced to petition the head of the investigative department in writing. My petition was examined and today, probably, I shall see those [all] materials.

7×7 – How does Yury Dmitriev explain his actions?

V.A. – Very simply and logically. Let me repeat: you must remember that he took in a child that was in a very run-down physical condition. Her development was retarded. Before becoming a foster parent, he attended special courses and received approval. They recommended that with children in such poor physical condition a photo album should be kept – to compare how she was developing.

Why was this needed? One, so that he himself could monitor her growth and, two, because a foster family is not the same as [legal] adoption. [NOTE: In accordance with Russian law and practice, a foster child is temporarily raised within a family and may be taken back at any moment by the decision of the Agency for Guardianship and Foster Care to be placed under a guardian or adopted.] The Agency for Guardianship and Foster Care is obliged to visit them regularly, once or twice a month. Dmitriev is obliged to present evidence that the child has not got worse but is improving.

He kept these photos in a directory on his computer. He did not show them to anyone else or print them out. He sent them nowhere.

On 10 December 2016, someone entered Dmitriev’s apartment, either as instructed or for their own malevolent purposes, turned on the computer, and somehow printed out the photographs. Then that person sent an anonymous denunciation to the Investigative Department, which was received on 12 December. On 13 December, Yury Dmitriev was arrested.

A word as to how this was organised. On 8 December, the local policeman visited Dmitriev,  something he’d never done before, and said: “I want you come and visit me at the station on the 10th and you will be there for four hours. There’s something I must talk to you about.” Dmitriev responded, “Why? What’s up?” The policeman replied: “You must come.”

The woman who was living with Dmitriev came out. It was totally unexpected for the policeman: “What are you doing here?” he asked. (I’m repeating this, word for word, as Dmitriev told me.) “I live with him. I’m waiting for an operation. I must wait my turn for a month or two. It’s a complicated operation.” He said, “We’ll sort that out.” Next day there was a ring at the door and she was taken, as an emergency, to have her operation. She left the apartment and Dmitriev’s foster daughter went to school.

The policeman summoned Dmitriev to see him and kept him stewing there for four hours on various empty pretences. Dmitriev couldn’t understand why he’d been called to the police station. You’ll come and sit here, that’s all. When he got home, he could see that someone else had been in the apartment. Then the anonymous denunciation was sent, and the rest happened according to plan.

7×7 – Who does Dmitriev suspect of sending the denunciation?

V.A. – No one, for the time being. He doesn’t suspect anyone because he knows nothing.

7×7 – Does the girl consider herself a victim?

V.A. – An 11-year-old girl cannot declare herself a victim. That’s a purely juridical assessment and she has been formally declared a victim. But let me add again that even a suspicion must be based on something. As of today, so far as I can tell from the case materials available in court, there is nothing that could allow one to say, ‘Yes, Yury Dmitriev produced these photographs and used minors to prepare pornographic materials’. There are photos of his grandson who lives in Finland. Dmitriev’s son sent them. There’s also a little boy, 7-9 years of age, also naked. That’s all there was in that directory. Who got in the computer is an open question. Perhaps we shall find out. Perhaps not.

The interview was conducted for 7×7 Horizontal Russia by Alexander Gnetnev