The appeal hearings at the Supreme Court of Karelia on 16, 22 and 29 September took place in the absence of Victor Anufriev who has been DMITRIEV’S defence attorney since 2016 (he is self-isolating because of Covid-19).
In a telephone interview, Anufriev told Zoya Svetova that he had been in constant touch with the attorney [Artyom Cherkasov] appointed to represent Dmitriev after the court refused his client’s lawful demand to postpone the proceedings until Anufriev was able to attend.
ZS – How do you explain the action of the Supreme Court of Karelia in overturning the sentence of the Petrozavodsk City Court? That goes against our firm belief that courts in Russia always agree their verdicts with higher courts when dealing with widely publicised cases.
VA – I’ve no idea. It just shows that the myth in this case did not work as intended. My understanding is that the court of first instance did not agree its actions with the higher court. Its decision proves that the court acted independently and reached a decision in accordance with its own understanding.
ZS – Why did the Supreme Court of Karelia take the prosecution view so firmly? Was it because of the new expert assessment of the photographs of Dmitriev’s foster daughter? The prosecutor’s office considers them pornographic, although the Petrozavodsk City Court acquitted Dmitriev of that charge.
VA — It’s hard for me to say. I haven’t seen the ruling yet. As you yourself realise it’s ridiculous to talk of a new assessment. Three years have passed, there has been an investigation and judicial hearings and a great many experts and specialists have appeared in court. Yet in a matter of three days they pretend some expert assessment has taken place. It’s a sham. I don’t even want to refer to that assessment.
It has nothing to do with the law. I petitioned for the judges to recuse themselves because it was obvious to everyone, even non-lawyers, that there could be no lawful, properly grounded decision at the Supreme Court of Karelia.
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.
YURY DMITRIEV’s first trial ended in April 2018 with his acquittal on the two most serious charges. The judge at the Petrozavodsk City Court concluded that the photographs Dmitriev had taken of his adopted daughter Natasha were not pornographic and that he had not committed indecent acts with her. However, the Karelian Supreme Court overruled the verdict and returned to the case for re-examination.
In summer 2018 further charges of forced sexual acts against his daughter Natasha were brought against Dmitriev. These accusations are based on new testimony by Natasha and her grandmother, neither of whom testified against Dmitriev during the first trial.
After the second trial began, Yury Dmitriev’s lawyer, Victor Anufriev, was interviewed by Alexander Valiyev of the Russian Service of Radio France Internationale.
During the first investigation and trial no evidence of the performance of indecent acts could be found. How could they suddenly bring charges of sexual violence at the second trial?
Yury Dmitriev’s acquittal was totally unexpected for the siloviki [high-ranking FSB and Ministry of Internal Affairs officers, etc]. Such a thing should not have happened, but it did. In Russia, such cases are judged in the courts and lead to a conviction without the slightest hitch. The city prosecutor supported the accusations and signed the charge sheet and that was already a signal to the judge that everything was in order and that the accused was “good to go”.
Unexpectedly, the judge ruled in accordance with the law and with justice. This was because during the course of the trial (which lasted a long while [from June 2017 to April 2018]), we, the defence, presented a great deal of evidence to wholly refute the evidence of the prosecution.
“The death of a person’s reputation is perhaps worse than being actually murdered. After such allegations, the person carries on but with great difficulty. It’s hard to live and not everyone can survive such an upheaval in their lives.
“When we speak about Sandarmokh, we must not forget the people at the time when this vile treatment began, and “undesirables” were eliminated. The free-thinkers, those who thought differently to others, who spoke in a different way and did things differently – they were awkward and undesirable [for the regime].