High Court upholds 15-year sentence

As soon as sentence was passed in December 2021 at Yury DMITRIEV’s third trial, his lawyers submitted an appeal against the verdict.

Yury Dmitriev in the courthouse corridor, 2022

Unlike the previous two trials, the court was openly prejudiced against the accused and would accept no petitions from the defence. Victor Anufriev, Dmitriev’s defence attorney since December 2016, objected on grounds of elementary disregard for court procedure.

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The High Court of Karelia began its hearing on 9 March 2022, during the fighting in Ukraine and unprecedented protests (and arrests) in Russia. As Valery Potashov reports on the Dmitriev supporters Facebook page, the court has just turned down the application to overturn the swingeing 15-year sentence imposed in late December last year. Perhaps, as before, further appeals will take the case higher up the judicial ladder, to the Cassation Court in Petersburg and the Supreme Court in Moscow. Dmitriev’s attorneys have not yet commented on yesterday’s ruling (and will only receive the written justification for the court’s ruling in some days time).

For the time being the 66-year-old DMITRIEV remains in Karelia’s detention centre No 1 in Petrozavodsk where he can be visited by his attorney and his daughter Katya. How much longer no one knows.

John Crowfoot

Memorial appeal against closure fails

The appeal submitted against the December 2021 ruling by Russia’s Supreme Court was turned down on Monday morning, 28 February 2022, in Moscow. A panel of judges heard the arguments of Memorial’s lawyers supported and led by the famous defence attorney Genry Reznik against the organisation’s closure.

First, the Memorial defence team petitioned for the hearing to be postponed, in view of the invocation of Rule 39 by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The petition was rejected.

Defence lawyers Maria Eismont, Anastasia Garina, Natalya Morozova, Natalia Sekretaryova and, finally, Genry Reznik then argued that the punishment of closure after over 30 years of existence was quite disproportionate to the poorly-defined offence of not indicating the organisation’s “foreign agent” status on all its output.

Further disputes concerned the status of Memorial as an international organisation with branches in other countries, the shifting definition of its supposed offences and, quoting the prosecutor’s words from the final hearing in December, the defence suggested that the true reason for closing Memorial was that in recording and publicising the crimes of the Soviet era the organisation had portrayed the USSR as a “terrorist State”.

Memorial chairman Jan Raczynski and the organisation’s executive director Yelena Zhemkova also spoke at the hearing. Only 11 people were admitted to the courtroom.

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Outside the courthouse old and young supporters of Memorial and its activities spoke of their admiration for an organisation that all agreed was very much needed in Russia.

Some, including Memorial board member Oleg Orlov, repeated words spoken earlier (for example in a defiant letter from Yury DMITRIEV in prison), that Memorial and those involved in its activities would find ways to continue their work whatever the courts decided.

Memorial has not yet been “liquidated”

Until the rulings issued on 28-29 December 2021 come into force, neither International Memorial nor the Memorial Human Rights Centre (HRC) has been dissolved. The interval between the verdict and its implementation allows, as always, an opportunity for the accused to appeal.

In Petrozavodsk, for instance, the City Court announced on 10 January that it had received Victor Anufriev’s appeal against the way in which his client Yury DMITRIEV was convicted on 27 December and sentenced to 15 years in a strict-regime penal colony.

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There have been international protests over the threatened closure of Memorial.

On 29 December, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, acting with uncharacteristic speed, applied an emergency interim measure, ordering the Russian government (since 1998 a co-signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights) to halt the abolition of the two organisations.

At 11 pm on 31 December 2021, the foreign ministry of the European Union released a statement supported by the United States, the 27-member European Union, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom calling on Russia “to uphold its international human rights obligations and commitments“.

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Now is the time to support the petition!

Sign if you have not already done so

if you have, circulate it to all your friends, colleagues and acquaintances.

As of mid-January 2022, the “Hands off Memorial!” petition had attracted 141,415 signatories worldwide. The text is presently available in 13 languages: Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Polish, Estonian, Latvian, Czech and Hebrew; English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Can Dmitriev get a fair hearing in Karelia?

Today the High Court of Karelia began its third hearing of the appeals made by Defence and Prosecution following the 22 July verdict in the trial of Yury DMITRIEV. [Previous hearings were held on 16 and 22 September.] At this hearing experts appointed by the court will present a new analysis of the photographs in the case.

It is unusual for a court of the second instance to take so long over its deliberations. More often it reaches a decision after a single sitting.

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