For six hours on Friday, 5 August 2022, people around the world read out a seemingly endless list of those who were shot during Stalin’s Great Terror in 1937-1938.
Over six thousand men and women were executed at SANDARMOKH, one of Northwest Russia’s biggest killing fields. I was asked to read some names where I lived and on Friday I did so, standing next to our village sign in Geldeston.
As soon as sentence was passed in December 2021 at Yury DMITRIEV’s third trial, his lawyers submitted an appeal against the verdict.
Yury Dmitriev in the courthouse corridor, 2022
Unlike the previous two trials, the court was openly prejudiced against the accused and would accept no petitions from the defence. Victor Anufriev, Dmitriev’s defence attorney since December 2016, objected on grounds of elementary disregard for court procedure.
The High Court of Karelia began its hearing on 9 March 2022, during the fighting in Ukraine and unprecedented protests (and arrests) in Russia. As Valery Potashov reports on the Dmitriev supporters Facebook page, the court has just turned down the application to overturn the swingeing 15-year sentence imposed in late December last year. Perhaps, as before, further appeals will take the case higher up the judicial ladder, to the Cassation Court in Petersburg and the Supreme Court in Moscow. Dmitriev’s attorneys have not yet commented on yesterday’s ruling (and will only receive the written justification for the court’s ruling in some days time).
For the time being the 66-year-old DMITRIEV remains in Karelia’s detention centre No 1 in Petrozavodsk where he can be visited by his attorney and his daughter Katya. How much longer no one knows.
The appeal submitted against the December 2021 ruling by Russia’s Supreme Court was turned down on Monday morning, 28 February 2022, in Moscow. A panel of judges heard the arguments of Memorial’s lawyers supported and led by the famous defence attorney Genry Reznik against the organisation’s closure.
First, the Memorial defence team petitioned for the hearing to be postponed, in view of the invocation of Rule 39 by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The petition was rejected.
Defence lawyers Maria Eismont, Anastasia Garina, Natalya Morozova, Natalia Sekretaryova and, finally, Genry Reznik then argued that the punishment of closure after over 30 years of existence was quite disproportionate to the poorly-defined offence of not indicating the organisation’s “foreign agent” status on all its output.
Further disputes concerned the status of Memorial as an international organisation with branches in other countries, the shifting definition of its supposed offences and, quoting the prosecutor’s words from the final hearing in December, the defence suggested that the true reason for closing Memorial was that in recording and publicising the crimes of the Soviet era the organisation had portrayed the USSR as a “terrorist State”.
Memorial chairman Jan Raczynski and the organisation’s executive director Yelena Zhemkova also spoke at the hearing. Only 11 people were admitted to the courtroom.
Outside the courthouse old and young supporters of Memorial and its activities spoke of their admiration for an organisation that all agreed was very much needed in Russia.
Some, including Memorial board member Oleg Orlov, repeated words spoken earlier (for example in a defiant letter from Yury DMITRIEV in prison), that Memorial and those involved in its activities would find ways to continue their work whatever the courts decided.
In late December Russia’s Supreme Court ordered International Memorial to disband as an organisation, after 33 years existence. This morning Memorial’s appeal against that ruling will be heard by the Court’s appeals board.
Following that hearing Memorial has organised a concert against the war being waged on Ukraine by Russia’s land, sea and air forces.