Verdict expected in February 2020

YURY DMITRIEV’s lawyer expects a verdict in his second trial at the end of February 2020. The prosecution and defence are currently giving their final statements.

The present trial began in October 2018 and has proceeded even more slowly than the first. Less is known about what has been going on behind closed doors at the second trial, also held in camera. One strategy pursued by Victor Anufriev, the defence attorney, has stressed his client’s high reputation among academics, rights activists and other professionals, for example, Anatoly Razumov of the National Library in St Petersburg. They have testified in his defence. In November 2019 a petition in English (and Italian) was circulated among academics overseas and the resulting list of signatories was presented as evidence in court.

This time, the mental state of Yury Dmitriev was not assessed and a succession of dubious official experts were not called to give evidence. Instead, and hardest of all, the main source of the present charges are statements obtained after persistent questioning from Dmitriev’s adopted daughter. An earlier petition launched in Russia by Memorial in October 2019 and published in Novaya gazeta commented: “A child is being destroyed for unrighteous ends”.

Dmitriev and Natasha in happier times (Red Soul, 2017)

In April 2018, contrary to general practice and widespread expectation, Yury Dmitriev was acquitted of all the most serious charges by the Petrozavodsk City Court. Whatever decision the same court reaches next month, the losing side will appeal and, once again, the Supreme Court of Karelia will take the final decision.

(By the way, it is Yury Alexeyevich’s birthday today. He is 64.)

John Crowfoot