Hearing goes ahead — without Anufriev

The hearing at Karelia’s Supreme Court of defence and prosecution appeals against the 22 July verdict in the DMITRIEV trial will go ahead tomorrow despite the absence of Victor Anufriev, the attorney who has led Dmitriev’s defence since December 2016.

Postponed for a week at Anufriev’s request (he is self-isolating), the hearing will begin at 10 am on Tuesday, 22 September at 27 Kirov Street in Petrozavodsk. Yury DMITRIEV is to be represented by a local, court-appointed lawyer. Dmitriev himself will take part via video-link from the city’s detention centre; tomorrow, as throughout the two previous trials, public and press are not admitted to the courtroom.

As usual Dmitriev supporters, from near and far, will travel to Petrozavodsk in solidarity.

Dmitriev supporters outside the Supreme Court of Karelia, 16 September 2020

A Time to Speak Out

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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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.

Imprisoned for memorialising Sandormokh, refusing to forget the Great Terror

Halya Coynash

Russian historian Yury DMITRIEV turned 64 on 28 January 2020. It was his third birthday detained on charges that bear no scrutiny, and his arrest coincided with the beginnings of a campaign to rewrite the history of one of the darkest pages of the Soviet Terror – the mass killing by quota of Russians, Ukrainians and other prisoners of the Solovetsky Archipelago at the Sandormokh Clearing in Karelia in 1937.

Yury Dmitriev after his acquittal in April 2018,
The stone at the entrance to the Sandormokh memorial complex

If the current regime in Russia was hoping to silence Dmitriev, it has failed. The historian and head of the Karelian branch of the Memorial Society has just published a book entitled Sandarmokh: A Place of Memory, providing information about both the victims and the perpetrators of the mass executions in the forest. In a recent letter, Dmitriev wrote that

“it is memory that makes human beings human, and not a part of the population. […] While I’m alive, I won’t allow them to rewrite our common history. […] The attempt to rewrite the history of Sandarmokh is part of the strategy of the current regime, an attempt to return our country to a camp “surrounded by enemies”. The aim is to retain their power. A frightened population will always seek protection from a strong leader”.

In a preface to the book, Dmitriev repeats this central theme about the pivotal role of memory. He points out that, while Sandarmokh is a place of memory, for him it is also a place of education where people cease to be a faceless population and are transformed into a nation, conscious of their shared fate.

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