Can Dmitriev get a fair hearing in Karelia?

Today the Supreme Court of Karelia began its third hearing of the appeals made by Defence and Prosecution following the 22 July verdict in the trial of Yury DMITRIEV. [Previous hearings were held on 16 and 22 September.] At this hearing experts appointed by the court will present a new analysis of the photographs in the case.

It is unusual for a court of the second instance to take so long over its deliberations. More often it reaches a decision after a single sitting.

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Appeals to be Heard on 16 September

On Wednesday, 16 September 2020, the Supreme Court of Karelia will hear the appeals submitted by both defence and prosecution after the 22 July verdict and sentence in the trial of Yury DMITRIEV.

The investigation and prosecution of the historian and head of the Memorial Society in Karelia began in December 2016 and has lasted almost four years, during which time Dmitriev has been detained, almost continually, at detention & investigation centre No 1 in Petrozavodsk.

The current appeals

Dmitriev’s defence has appealed against his conviction on one of the charges and called for his acquittal on all counts.

Under the Russian judicial system, the prosecution is also entitled to appeal. The prosecution has protested about the exceptionally light sentence (3 ½ years) and is calling, as it did during the closing statements, for a sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment in a strict-regime penal colony.

The charges and the verdict

The evidence and expert testimony supporting and opposing a range of charges against the historian have been heard and evaluated at two trials since June 2017.

After examining the charges, the International Memorial Society declared on 28 June 2017 that Dmitriev was a “political prisoner”. The case against him was fabricated, said Memorial, and Dmitriev was innocent of all charges.

Today 64 years old, Dmitriev has been prosecuted for a number of  crimes under the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. He was acquitted of all but one charge in April 2018. Tried again between October 2018 and July 2020 for two of the same offences and a further charge, he was found guilty of the new crime but given a minimal sentence.

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Appeals lodged by all parties

Memorial in Moscow has just confirmed that the Defence and Prosecution have both appealed against the verdict and sentence pronounced on 22 July 2020 by Judge Merkov at the end of Yury DMITRIEV’s second trial before the Petrozavodsk City Court.

On 31 July Yury Dmitriev submitted an appeal, as did the prosecution. On 3 August, an appeal was lodged on behalf of the victim, Dmitriev’s foster daughter Natasha.

Dmitriev’s attorney Victor Anufriev confirmed that an appeal had been submitted with the intention of clearing his client of all charges. At present Dmitriev is being held, as before, in detention centre No 1 in Petrozavodsk.

On the Eve of a Verdict

On Friday, 10 July, Memorial hosted an online press conference about the forthcoming verdict in the DMITRIEV case. (The moderator was Oleg Orlov.)

In the absence of a transcribed and translated version of that event, here is a synchronic translation into English, with an approximate time location, of the remarks by Dmitriev’s friends, colleagues and supporters Irina FLIGE (7 mins), Anatoly RAZUMOV (13 m), Natalya SOLZHENITSYN (23 m) and Alexander SOKUROV (30 m). Sergei Davidis of Memorial (39) then discusses the plight of Russia’s many political prisoners, of whom Yury Dmitriev is one.

Their comments are followed by a Q&A in which Dmitriev’s remarkable defence attorney Victor ANUFRIEV (49 m) replies to questions from journalists, friendly and unfriendly …

The original Russian recording may be found here.

Kommunarka Controversy (Pt 2)

[Part 1]

“In August 1937 the most extensive and cruel period of political repression began,” wrote the late Arseny Roginsky in an Afterword to the Kommunarka Book of Remembrance. “In July the NKVD departments across the USSR had already began to set aside special ‘zones’, areas for the mass burial of those they shot. For locals these usually became known, euphemistically, as army firing ranges.

golden hill chelyabinsk
Golden Hill (Zolotaya gora) Chelyabinsk

“This was how the zones that we know today came into being: the Levashovo Wasteland near Leningrad, Kuropaty near Minsk, the Golden Hill near Chelyabinsk, Bykovnya on the outskirts of Kiev, and many others.”

For decades after the death of Stalin in 1953, these sites remained in the hands of the NKVD’s successor, the KGB, and only in the very last years of the Soviet Union did they become known as the burial sites and killing fields of the Great Terror. There were two such “firing ranges” on the outskirts of Moscow, at Butovo and Kommunarka.

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