YURY DMITRIEV’s first trial ended in April 2018 with his acquittal on the two most serious charges. The judge at the Petrozavodsk City Court concluded that the photographs Dmitriev had taken of his adopted daughter Natasha were not pornographic and that he had not committed indecent acts with her. However, the Karelian Supreme Court overruled the verdict and returned to the case for re-examination.
In summer 2018 further charges of forced sexual acts against his daughter Natasha were brought against Dmitriev. These accusations are based on new testimony by Natasha and her grandmother, neither of whom testified against Dmitriev during the first trial.
After the second trial began, Yury Dmitriev’s lawyer, Victor Anufriev, was interviewed by Alexander Valiyev of the Russian Service of Radio France Internationale.
During the first investigation and trial no evidence of the performance of indecent acts could be found. How could they suddenly bring charges of sexual violence at the second trial?
Yury Dmitriev’s acquittal was totally unexpected for the siloviki [high-ranking FSB and Ministry of Internal Affairs officers, etc]. Such a thing should not have happened, but it did. In Russia, such cases are judged in the courts and lead to a conviction without the slightest hitch. The city prosecutor supported the accusations and signed the charge sheet and that was already a signal to the judge that everything was in order and that the accused was “good to go”.
Unexpectedly, the judge ruled in accordance with the law and with justice. This was because during the course of the trial (which lasted a long while [from June 2017 to April 2018]), we, the defence, presented a great deal of evidence to wholly refute the evidence of the prosecution.
The court was left with no choice but to acquit, since the case reached the court with a very weak and unproved account of the charges. In fact, the case should not have reached the court in such a condition – but it did.
The siloviki then stirred themselves. The only source was the daughter Natasha. When they announced the verdict on 5 April 2018, Yury Dmitriev said to me: “Can I relax now, Victor, and take a breather?” I replied: “You can but only if they do not get some new information from the girl.” And that’s what happened.
It still seems odd. Didn’t they question Natasha when they were investigating the first case?
They questioned her twice, aggressively, and recorded the interrogation. She did not say one bad word about Yury Dmitriev – not one. Consequently, I draw the conclusion that nothing bad had happened. However, the siloviki had to save the prosecution. They had been defeated and they are not accustomed to losing.
Doesn’t that put the investigators in a vulnerable position – in effect, they are charging someone a second time after their first failure?
Not at all. They are not vulnerable but have placed themselves in an excellent position. Judicial practice in Russia operates as follows. If a child says something happened, then that is a 100% proof. Especially since they take every kind of measure to prevent the girl appearing in court, because it “would traumatise her” and so on. When they asked her 200 indecent questions, on the other hand, they were not traumatising her. Natasha broke down in tears during that interrogation and they forced the testimony from her. Now they consider they are assured of a conviction – that’s the way justice works in Russia.
In your view, what role was played by the public reaction to the Dmitriev case during the first trial, by the mass support from rights activists and colleagues?
Public activity is important, first and foremost, for those taking part. The court is only interested in judicial evidence. Guilty or not guilty. During the previous trial it was important that evidence was obtained to prove Dmitriev’s innocence.
In what conditions is Dmitriev being held? How does he feel?
Then conditions are good. He is ready to spend as much time [in the detention centre] as is necessary for his acquittal.
Are relatives allowed to visit him?
His son Yegor has visited him, but his daughter Katya has been called as a witness at the trial and cannot see him until she has been cross-questioned in court.
What do you think: how long with the trial last?
Such a case should not be rushed and, thank God, they are not rushing it. So, I think, there will be a verdict this spring.
Radio France Internationale, 28 December 2018
Yury Dmitriev and his adopted daughter Natasha have not seen one another since mid-December 2016 when he was arrested, and she was collected from school and placed in the care of her grandmother (whose daughter abandoned the little girl).