The verdict is due tomorrow in what a huge number of prominent Russians have called one of the grubbiest political trials in the country. Modern Russia has long been imprisoning people for their civic position or beliefs, but the case of renowned historian of the Terror and Memorial activist, Yury DMITRIEV, stands out for the brutal use of a child to try to destroy both the historian and his reputation.
Trumped-up “child pornography” charges in the first trial were demolished by experts and, in the face of national and international condemnation, led to an initial acquittal. Law enforcement bodies came back for more. After unwarrantedly getting the acquittal revoked, they reinstated the initial indictment , while adding grotesque charges of “violent actions of a sexual nature” against the same daughter whom Dmitriev has not seen since December 2016.
Taking a 12-year-old child away from the only family she had ever known, Russia has used her age as an excuse for holding the entire “trial” behind closed doors. Details have now become clear, however, both from Dmitriev’s final address to the court on 8 July and from other information that confirm the cruel cynicism behind this case and lack of any grounds for the charges.
A father’s legitimate concerns
It is clear that there were never any “violent actions” and nothing of a sexual nature in Dmitriev’s behaviour, only a father’s legitimate concerns for his daughter’s well-being.
This was confirmed during the first trial in which the prosecution had tried to treat as “child pornography” photographs taken over a period of years, documenting the height and weight of a little girl who had been weak and underweight when taken from a children’s home.
It seems that the new charges, for which the prosecutor has demanded a 15-year prison sentence, are in connection with a period when Natasha was eight years old and began having attacks of enuresis (involuntary urinating). Like any other parent in such a situation, Dmitriev would, if he noticed the tell-tale smell, pat the little girl’s knickers around the area of the groin to see if they were wet, and if necessary get her to have a wash. There is confirmation in Natasha’s medical records that she was suffering from enuresis, yet the prosecution has claimed that these were “violent actions of a sexual nature”.
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”.
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.
It is becoming dangerous in Russia to investigate the crimes of Stalinism, writes Halya Coynash. A second Karelian historian, Sergei KOLTYRIN has been arrested and is facing charges almost identical to those now brought against political prisoner, Yury DMITRIEV.
While the possibility cannot be excluded that there are real grounds for these new charges, the chilling similarities between the two cases are of immense concern. So too is the timing, with this second arrest coming soon after Koltyrin publicly rejected attempts to rewrite history about the mass graves of victims of the Terror at Sandarmokh in Karelia.
Sergei KOLTYRIN, director of the Medvezhyegorsk district museum, has been detained “with an accomplice” on suspicion of paedophilia, a source within law enforcement told the local Respublika website. This was later confirmed by the Investigative Committee of Karelia.
Sergei Koltyrn, director of Medvezhyegorsk district museum
Koltyrin has been heavily involved with the Sandarmokh memorial complex, which lies within the area covered by his museum, and spoke out against the recent excavations there by the Russian Military Historical Society. He has been director of the Medvezhyegorsk district museum for the past 27 years.
He is being investigated under Article 135 (Depraved Actions), concerning sexual relations with a minor. This is an offence similar to that which was added to Yury DMITRIEV’s charge sheet after his re-arrest at the end of June. (The details of the new charge against Dmitriev have yet to be clarified.)
The first hearing in Yury DMITRIEV’s new trial was postponed on
27 September until next month, to allow the accused and his lawyer time to acquaint themselves, once again, with the case materials of his first trial [from 1 June 2017 to 5 April 2018]. The next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday,
17 October 2018, at the Petrozavodsk City Court.
Dmitriev in courtroom corridor, 27 September 2018 (photo, Sergei Myatukhin)