In early July 1997, DMITRIEV together with Irina Flige and the late Veniamin Joffediscovered a huge killing field of the Great Terror near Medvezhegorsk in Karelia. Subsequently it became known as Sandarmokh.
Weeks later, in early September, he and Sergei Chugunkov identify the Krasny Bor killing field and burial ground not far from Petrozavodsk, the capital of Karelia.
At the third attempt the appeal made by Yury DMITRIEV and his defence attorney Victor Anufriev against the September 2020 decision of Karelia’s High Court (to increase his sentence to 13 years imprisonment) has been accepted by the Third Cassation Court in St Petersburg. It will now receive the case materials and the various verdicts and decisions reached in the courts of Karelia since 2018.
Next week the charges against Yury DMITRIEV will be examined, once again, in the Petrozavodsk City Court. The first hearing in the new trial is scheduled for Tuesday, 24 November (on the court’s website it was announced that the trial would begin on Wednesday, 18 November, but the later date was agreed and confirmed with Dmitriev’s defence).
This will be the third time Yury Dmitriev has been put on trial for the same crimes. Twice the Petrozavodsk City Court has found the historian not guilty of preparing child pornography or committing depraved acts against his foster daughter. On a further charge of illegal possession of a firearm he was found guilty in 2018, but acquitted in 2020.
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.
On Wednesday, 16 September 2020, the High 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.