As the Dmitriev trial got under way this summer, journalist Maria Eismont concluded an article about the case (“Dmitriev should be a State-Prize nominee“, 6 June 2017) with the following words:
“There is another important thing about the Dmitriev case: the charge his persecutors chose for him. He was not charged with ‘extremism’ or ‘separatism’, which have been commonplace in politically-motivated cases, but with child pornography and depraved actions towards a minor. The charges not only guarantee a long sentence and promise the accused problems in prison but also challenge the public to support him. ‘What if something really did happen?’ Dmitriev’s friends and relatives acknowledge that while those who doubt Dmitriev or are willing to countenance the charges are in a clear minority, such people do exist, and some of them are ‘decent’ people.
“The number of ‘paedophilia’ cases, based on controversial, contradictory, clearly flimsy evidence and flagrantly unprofessional forensic examinations, has been growing for several years. Recently, I attended a similar event in Naro-Fominsk, seventy kilometers southwest of Moscow. It was also a memorial evening for a living person who had been detained [pending tria] on charges of depravity against a child, actions the man could not have committed, according to witnesses who were nearby when the crime was alleged to have occurred. Dozens of people had come to remember what a good nurse Yevgeny (Zhenya) had been. Then they corrected themselves: not had been, but is and will continue to be. Then they cried.
“‘Pedophilia’ cases have long been custom-ordered to rid oneself of rivals and used to pad police conviction statistics, but now they have been put to use in political cases.”
Source: Vedomosti daily newspaper [R], 6 June 2017
Charges of paedophilia or, rather, the threat of such accusations, were occasionally used against dissidents in the Soviet period, but a search through the Chronicle of Current Events or the USSR News Brief turned up only one case. (Many if not most such threats, naturally, may never have come to light.) Recently, an attempt was made to pressurise rights activist Magomed Mutsolgov of the Mashr orgnisation by claiming he had child pornography on his confiscated computer.
The prosecutions covered over the past five years by Eismont follow a different pattern. Typically, they arise out of disputes between separated couples which, at some point, have led to doubtful accusations of child sex abuse. Common features of several of the cases she describes are that the child was drilled by one side to repeat allegations of sexual abuse that under examination proved false and were subsequently denied by the child itself. A more disturbing aspect is that, no matter what the evidence, the accused was routinely found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment. The only concession being, when it seemed clear the man was innocent, that the minimum 8-years stretch was imposed.
Selected articles by Maria Eismont
- “The case of Vladimir Makarov, ‘paedophile’“,
Radio Echo Moskvy [R], 28 November 2011
- “The Production of Paedophilia“,
Snob magazine [R], 14 December 2015
- “Male nurse Yevgeny Yefimenko found guilty of paedophilia“,
Bizbi: News from Naro-Fominsk [R], 28 September 2017
In the Dmitriev case neither the prosecution nor, naturally, his adopted daughter Natasha have presented any evidence of “depraved actions” on his part.
The concern remains that the overwhelming tendency of Russian courts to convict (in 99% of judge-only cases), and the established practice of seemingly automatic guilty verdicts whenever the sexual abuse of minors is alleged, may yet lead to Dmitriev’s conviction sometime before January next year.
On the other hand, the testimony of eleven reputable experts in Petrozavodsk at a relatively high-profile trial may yet help to establish certain parameters and definitions where these have been painfully lacking before. Article 242.2 concerning child pornography, for instance, contains no working definition as to what pornography is.
That was why the despicable 10 January broadcast this year was able to show the rather innocent snaps taken by Yury Alexeyevich to tens of thousands of viewers and persuade some, even many, that they were obviously pornographic.