Natasha “held firm: she did not utter a single unnecessary word”

Irina Levontina, expert linguist at the Dmitriev trial, talks to Zoya Svetova for MBK Media about her work on the case and the pressures now faced by court experts.

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On 22 July 2020 Petrozavodsk City Court sentenced Yury DMITRIEV to three and a half years’ imprisonment in a strict-regime penal colony for “acts of a sexual nature committed against a minor”. Irina Levontina presented the findings of the linguistic specialists invited by the defence at the trial. [She is a senior research associate of the Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Russian Language.]

Their assessment played a significant role, it seems, in the award of such a mild sentence: the Criminal Code suggests a minimum of 12 years’ imprisonment for such a crime.

Irina Levontina (MBK media)

ZOYA SVETOVA (ZS) – With Academician Alexander Moldovan, Anna Dybo (Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences) and Alexei Shmelyov – all famous linguists – you prepared an expert assessment at the request of Yury Dmitriev’s defence. On which of the case materials did you base your findings?

IRINA LEVONTINA (IL) – They gave us seven texts, some with accompanying video. They were [Natasha’s] conversations with the psychologist and the cross-examination of a minor [by the investigator]. The case was held behind closed doors, so I can hardly tell you anything about the content of the texts we analysed. Before and especially after sentence was pronounced a heated discussion broke out.

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