“He’s facing things bravely, but hopes for justice”

Yury DMITRIEV’s second trial, like the first, is being held behind closed doors. His lawyer Victor Anufriev recently provided his view of the case in the longest interview he has given to the media since early last year. (The second trial began in September 2018.)

The interviewer was Katerina Gordeyeva (Meduza).

Gordeyeva — Two years have passed since the Petrozavodsk City Court acquitted Yury DMITRIEV of the two most serious charges and gave him a two-year suspended sentence for “Illegal possession of a firearm”. Yet Dmitriev is still in the detention centre. What happened?

Anufriev — After the acquittal the prosecutor’s office, invoking its procedural rights, applied to the Supreme Court for the verdict to be annulled. I also submitted an appeal, for that part of the verdict which concerned the firearm, to be annulled.

As a result, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Karelia annulled the entire verdict, satisfying the appeal by the prosecutor’s office and my appeal. The case was returned for further examination.

And it was during this re-examination of the case that the new charges appeared?

Yes, on 9 September 2018 the two cases were combined as one investigation.

What was new to the case?

Dmitriev was accused of another, more serious, crime. He could now face a total of up to 20 years’ imprisonment. He is charged under four Articles of the RF Criminal Code:

  • 135, part 3: “Perverted Actions of a Sexual Character against a minor”;
  • 242.2, part 2: “Use of a Minor for the Purposes of Preparing Pornography”;
  • 222: “Illegal Acquisition, Transfer, Sale, Storage, Transportation, or Bearing of Firearms, Its Basic Parts, Ammunition, Explosives, and Explosive Devices”;
  • 132, part 4: “Violent Actions of a Sexual Character against Someone who has not reached the Age of Fourteen”.

Victor Anufriev

The charge that Dmitriev was in illegal possession of a firearm — one that did not work, incidentally, and for which Dmitriev had a permit — has not disappeared.

Of the new charges the main accusation is of violent sexual activities. There was no such accusation in 2016, when the case began.

There was not.

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Release detainees before they become infected

In view of the expanding Corona virus epidemic, Russian lawyers are calling for many held by the Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS) to be released. One obvious candidate, almost continuously imprisoned since December 2016, is Yury DMITRIEV. At the last hearing in his slow-moving trial his detention in custody was extended until the end of June.

In an article in the widely-read Moskovsky komsomolets daily paper, lawyer Alexander Pikhovkin says that the FPS is lagging behind society as a whole and should start releasing detainees and some of its half-million prisoners.

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“The Moscow section of the Federal Penitentiary Service is refusing to accept any new inmates in its detention centres,” writes Pikhovkin.

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A glimpse of Dmitriev

The hearing took place today, despite quarantine measures announced in connection with the Covid-19 outbreak.

Yury DMITRIEV in corridor of Petrozavodsk City Courthouse, 23 March 2020

Supporters caught a glimpse of Yury Dmitriev as he was escorted along the corridor. To judge by his appearance, he had recovered from his sickness. “He looked well and had put on weight,” Anatoly RAZUMOV told the Petersburg Human Rights Council over the phone from Petrozavodsk.

Dmitriev was glad that the new edition of his book, Sandarmokh, a Place of Remembrance, was being acquired by libraries in Russia, and sent greetings to all concerned about his situation.

The next court hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, 14 April. As usual, today’s hearing took place behind closed doors. Dmitriev’s detention in custody has been prolonged until 28 June.

The Progress of the Trial: February 2020

“By 10 February, the prosecution planned, the final words by both sides would have come to an end and a verdict would be delivered,” says Anatoly RAZUMOV, a friend of Yury Dmitriev’s and a member of St Petersburg’s Human Rights Council. “However, the defence had prepared two speakers for that day.

Anatoly Ya. RAZUMOV, National Library, St Petersburg

“In the early 2000s, Professor Victor Kirillov, D.Phil. (History), was in charge of the creation of a unified database of the victims of political repression, the Their Names Restored project [see below]. He arrived by plane having travelled from Yekaterinburg in the Urals via Petersburg in order to testify on behalf of his friend Yury Dmitriev. Now even the President of Russia was suggesting that such a database be created, Kirillov said: a popular initiative was becoming a task for the State. The trial is closed and we can judge what is going on merely by the length of hearing. Victor testified for 40-50 minutes.

“Then the court heard a specialist in children’s issues. She spoke and was questioned the rest of the day, from morning until lunchtime, and after lunch until 5.00 pm. Seemingly, her testimony and explanations impressed the court.

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Next court hearing, 23 March

Due to illness — Yury DMITRIEV had a high temperature — the scheduled hearing on Thursday, 20 February, did not take place. The Petrozavodsk City Court will next assemble to hear the case in a month’s time, on Monday 23 March.

Andrei Oborin,
Dmitriev Supporters’ Page, Facebook