“Move Trial to New Jurisdiction” (Open Letter)

On Monday, 28 September, an Open Letter signed by over two hundred Russian scientists, actors, rights activists, politicians, film-makers, historians and publishers was published in Novaya gazeta. It was addressed to the chairman of Karelia’s Supreme Court Anatoly Nakvas.

Yury Alexeyevich DMITRIEV
(photo Anna Artyemeva, Novaya gazeta)

After outlining the progress of the two trials at which Yury DMITRIEV was charged with a variety of offences, the signatories raise doubts that the Supreme Court of Karelia will provide a fair and just hearing of the appeals launched after the second trial ended in July 2020. Not only was the first acquittal in April 2018 overturned: this time the chances of Dmitriev receiving a fair hearing have been severely prejudiced by the behaviour of the court, as presided over by Judge Alla Rats.

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A Time to Speak Out

Today the Supreme Court of Karelia is hearing appeals from prosecution and defence against the verdict pronounced at Yury DMITRIEV’s trial on 22 July this year.

The prosecution has slightly “softened” its demands: now it is asking not for 15 but 13 years’ imprisonment. The defence, as before, demands that Dmitriev be cleared of all charges.

We must stand together today, in thought and word and deed, and say: No, we have not given up, we have not shut up and gone away, we are NOT happy with this verdict, even if it is the best possible in the circumstances. Our banner reads “Not Guilty!”

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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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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.