Different sides were in play here, I think. In the Petrozavodsk City Court, Dmitriev’s defence attorney was able to outplay the security services by bringing forward a mass of witnesses, experts and specialists and used procedural norms to push the court at the first and second trials to take the right decision. The prosecution did not provide a single proof of Dmitriev’s guilt.
At the Supreme Court hearing on 22 September in Petrozavodsk, Judge Alla Rats requested another expert assessment of the photographs on Yury DMITRIEV’s home computer that formed the pretext for his arrest on 13 December 2016.
From Nikita Girin’s two detailed articles this July in Novaya gazeta we have learned which among the 140 plus photographs taken of his foster daughter between 2008 and 2015 were selected to support a charge of child pornography against the historian, and why.
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.
On Wednesday, 22 July 2020, in a damp and windy Petrozavodsk, Victor Anufriev briefly addressed a large crowd of journalists and cameramen and women outside the City Court. According to BELSAT journalist Marina Makarova he indicated that his client Yury DMITRIEV had been found guilty and sentenced to three years six months’ imprisonment.
Taking into account the length of time DMITRIEV has already spent in detention centre No 1 in Petrozavodsk this means that he will be released on 12 November. Anufriev later specified that the sentence referred only to the charge of sexual abuse. (See 22July report by Halya Coynash of the Kharkov Human Rights Group.)
At the end of the trial, earlier this month, the prosecution demanded 15 years’ imprisonment for Yury DMITRIEV in a strict regime penal colony.
Yury DMITRIEV is led into court (31 October 2019)
In an interview with the BBC, Petersburg attorney Mikhail Utkin called the sentence “unprecedented”: the minimum term specified in Article 132 is 12 years’ imprisonment.
The verdict is due tomorrow in what a huge number of prominent Russians have called one of the grubbiest political trials in the country. Modern Russia has long been imprisoning people for their civic position or beliefs, but the case of renowned historian of the Terror and Memorial activist, Yury DMITRIEV, stands out for the brutal use of a child to try to destroy both the historian and his reputation.
Trumped-up “child pornography” charges in the first trial were demolished by experts and, in the face of national and international condemnation, led to an initial acquittal. Law enforcement bodies came back for more. After unwarrantedly getting the acquittal revoked, they reinstated the initial indictment , while adding grotesque charges of “violent actions of a sexual nature” against the same daughter whom Dmitriev has not seen since December 2016.
Taking a 12-year-old child away from the only family she had ever known, Russia has used her age as an excuse for holding the entire “trial” behind closed doors. Details have now become clear, however, both from Dmitriev’s final address to the court on 8 July and from other information that confirm the cruel cynicism behind this case and lack of any grounds for the charges.
A father’s legitimate concerns
It is clear that there were never any “violent actions” and nothing of a sexual nature in Dmitriev’s behaviour, only a father’s legitimate concerns for his daughter’s well-being.
This was confirmed during the first trial in which the prosecution had tried to treat as “child pornography” photographs taken over a period of years, documenting the height and weight of a little girl who had been weak and underweight when taken from a children’s home.
It seems that the new charges, for which the prosecutor has demanded a 15-year prison sentence, are in connection with a period when Natasha was eight years old and began having attacks of enuresis (involuntary urinating). Like any other parent in such a situation, Dmitriev would, if he noticed the tell-tale smell, pat the little girl’s knickers around the area of the groin to see if they were wet, and if necessary get her to have a wash. There is confirmation in Natasha’s medical records that she was suffering from enuresis, yet the prosecution has claimed that these were “violent actions of a sexual nature”.