Screenshot of the Russian Supreme Court’s decision to reject Yuri Dmitriev’s request for a review of his verdict
Russian Supreme Court Refuses to Review Historian Yuri Dmitriev’s Verdict
October 13, 2021
The Russian Supreme Court will not consider the cassation appeal of the head of Memorial’s Karelian branch, Yuri Dmitriev, who was sentenced to thirteen years in a high-security penal colony on charges of violent acts against a child. This was reported on the court’s website, and human rights activist Zoya Svetova also reported the denial of the request on Facebook.
“Request to transfer the case (cassation complaints, submissions) for consideration at a session of the cassation court has been denied,” the case card on the court’s website says.
This past summer, more than 150 cultural and academic figures sent an open letter to Russian Supreme Court chief justice Vyacheslav Lebedev asking the court to take Dmitriev’s case from the Petrozavodsk courts and render their own verdict.
Svetova reminded her readers that the criminal case against Dmitriev, who was accused of sexual crimes and distributing pornography, has been tried in the courts of Karelia for four and a half years. Twice the courts acquitted the historian, and twice the verdict was overturned.
“That is, [Russian Supreme Court] Judge Abramov read the file of a case in which the Karelian historian was actually acquitted twice, and then these sentences were overturned, but he decided not to review anything at all. That is, he didn’t allow the case to go to the cassation court, so as not to IMITATE justice. Because the outcome had been the same in the cassation court. This is another new low for justice,” Svetova commented on Facebook.
Historian Yuri Dmitriev, who was the first to investigate the mass graves from the Great Terror in Sandarmokh, was initially arrested five years ago, in 2016. He was charged with producing child pornography (punishable under Article 242.2 of the Criminal Code) and committing indecent acts (punishable under Article 135.1 of the Criminal Code) against his adopted daughter, a minor. The charges were occasioned by nude pictures of the child found at Dmitriev’s house, which, as he explained, he had taken so that the children’s welfare authorities could verify at any time that the child was healthy and not injured.
In 2018, he was acquitted of the charges of producing pornography and committing indecent acts, but was sentenced to two and a half years of supervised release for possession of a weapon (punishable under Article 222.1 of the Criminal Code): during a search of Dmitriev’s house, police had found part of the barrel from a hunting rifle.
Dmitriev’s adopted daughter was immediately removed from his custody after the first arrest, and since then she has been living with her grandmother.
In June 2018, Dmitriev was arrested again: a new criminal case was opened against him, this time into commission of violent acts, and the lower court’s initial acquittal in the case was also overturned. According to the new charges, Dmitriev had not only photographed the girl, but also touched her crotch. Dmitriev himself said that he was checking the dryness of the child’s underwear. (The girl had suffered from bedwetting.)
The new trial ended in July 2020 with an acquittal on the indecent acts and pornography charges. However, the Petrozavodsk City Court ruled that Dmitriev was guilty of committing violent acts and sentenced him to three and a half years in a high-security penal colony.
In September 2020, the Karelian Supreme Court, after considering the appeals of the defense and the prosecution against the verdict, increased Dmitriev’s sentence to thirteen years in a high-security penal colony.
On the day of the third cassation court hearing in the Dmitriev case, the investigative journalism website Proekt published an article in which it named a possible “high-ranking curator” overseeing the case. According to Proekt, it could be the Russian presidential aide Anatoly Seryshev, who was head of the FSB in Karelia from 2011 to 2016.
Translated by the Russian Reader