See Why Dmitriev? (1)
On 27 December 2021, the Petrozavodsk City Court in Karelia will deliver its third verdict in the case of Yury DMITRIEV. The highest court in the land remains silent; lawyers from Memorial’s Human Rights Centre have submitted an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The court in Karelia will be serving an “unprecedented” third judgement on issues thoroughly aired at Dmitriev’s two previous trials where he was twice acquitted of the self-same charges.
Yury Dmitriev and Victor Anufriev, March 2018
The republic’s High Court decided otherwise, quadrupling the sentence for sexual abuse of a minor, and returning the charges of child pornography and non-violent abuse to be considered a third time.
Dmitriev’s defence attorney Victor Anufriev has demonstrated, twice, that his client has no charge to answer. Meeting the accusations head on with testimony from a succession of experts, Anufriev has shown within the framework of current legislation and the procedures of the Russian judicial system that Yury DMITRIEV is innocent. If he is now convicted the decision will be based not on the rule of law or established procedure but on other extra-judicial criteria.
Much of the discussion in the first two cases, as journalist Nikita Girin showed, concerns the kind of photos and parental behaviour to be found in any family. So what has driven this relentless persecution? Earlier events and the timing of the last few days, as the Memorial Human Rights Centre and the Memorial Society themselves face liquidation by the courts, offer a further suggestion.
Pursuing a Loner
Dmitriev and the evidence against him “fit the bill” like none other.
Potential supporters in Russia, not to mention the West, would have second thoughts about anyone accused of “child pornography” or the “sexual abuse” of a minor – offences regarded in the West with a strong and barely rational horror.
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In the weeks since the July verdict in Yury DMITRIEV’s trial we have learned more about the nature of the evidence and the tactics of the investigators and prosecution than in all the preceding months, from October 2018 and July 2020.
In “What We’ve Uncovered”, two long articles published in July by Novaya gazeta, Nikita Girin greatly expanded what we know about the background to the two trials.
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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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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.
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The verdict is due tomorrow in what a huge number of prominent Russians have called one of the grubbiest political trials in the country, writes Halya Coynash. 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.
[…] 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.
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