On the eve of a verdict

Halya Coynash

A verdict is due on Thursday, 5 April 2018, in the trial of YURY DMITRIEV, world-renowned Russian historian and head of the Karelia branch of the Memorial Society.

City Courthouse, Petrozavodsk, 2018

Petrozavodsk City Courthouse (photo, Kerstin Kronvall)

The prosecution has demanded a 9-year sentence, despite even the expert assessments ordered by the court dismissing the charges. This deeply flawed case differs from many politically-motivated trials, however, in that the outcome is still not clear. A guilty verdict on Thursday afternoon will signal a new descent for Russia into its Soviet past.

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Prosecutor demands 9-year sentence for Yury Dmitriev

The Serbsky Institute, the organisation which Prosecutor Askerova requested to assess Dmitriev’s mental state and the nine supposedly pornographic photos, effectively demolished the prosecution case, by declaring that the photos had no sexual content or purpose and that Dmitriev was himself normal mentally.

Askerova, Yelena (Petrozavodsk city prosecutor)

Yelena ASKEROVA, Petrozavodsky City Prosecutor since 2012

In her closing statement, however, Yelena Askerova demanded that YURY DMITRIEV be found guilty as charged and given a 9-year setence of imprisonment.

On Thursday, 22 March, the defence will make its closing statement and the judge will withdraw to consider her verdict.

Closing statements on 20 and 22 March

“I know it will be difficult to put together a support group three times at the Petrozavodsk courthouse, so I consulted Victor Anufriev,” wrote Daniil Saksonov on 10 March. Dmitriev’s lawyer said that the hearing on 14 March would “not be very important”, just an additional examination of one witness.

The following Tuesday, 20 March, marks the beginning of the closing statements by prosecution and defence and it would be important that people came to Petrozavodsk on that day. “Let’s try to make it!” wrote Saksonov who lectures at the Moscow Film School. “Getting away from Moscow or St Petersburg is not easy, but let’s get together. Please send us a message if you can come.

“We’re hoping that Yury Alexeyevich [Dmitriev] will lead another excursion for visitors around memorial sites near Petrozavodsk (most probably to Krasny Bor).”

Facebook, 10 March 2018

Only three hearings to go?

“It’s very important to gather people for the last three hearings, we hope, at the Petrozavodsk city courthouse,” wrote Daniil Saksonov on 2 March. The court would again hear the Dmitriev case on Wednesday, 14 March, and on Tuesday and Thursday, 20 and 22 March, respectively.

“It would be a pity, you must agree, if the corridors were full of sympathisers at all the court hearings hitherto and now, when we’re in the home straight, they were suddenly empty. Especially since a wonderful opportunity has appeared to spend some time with YURY ALEXEYEVICH [Dmitriev] after the hearing. On Wednesday, 14 March, for instance, he will guide people around the Krasny Bor memorial complex. Events are being arranged for the other two days, as well.

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“Scoundrels thought up this case” (Chudakova)

After her journey from Moscow to Petrozavodsk to express her support for Yury Dmitriev, the redoutable literary specialist MARIETTA CHUDAKOVA found time to give a public lecture on Memory, history textbooks and how “the present generation of idiots” in Russia was raising the next …

She also responded to questions from the media, as is now the custom,  in the courthouse corridor. Karelia’s State Radio & Televion Company did not include her words, however, in that evening’s news broadcast.

in Russian (English summary
or translation available presently)

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Serbsky Institute dismisses charges. Next hearing, 14 March

Russia’s Serbsky Institute has rejected any grounds for the charges against YURY DMITRIEV, renowned historian and Head of the Karelia branch of the Memorial Society.

Even an institute notorious for its use of punitive psychiatry in Soviet times was not willing to take part in the politically motivated attempt to imprison Dmitriev for up to 15 years and stated clearly that the historian “is not a paedophile”.  The result comes after Dmitriev spent 13 months in detention on charges that aroused concern far beyond his native Karelia.

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