‘For the Benefit of the Authorities.’ Sergei Davidis of Memorial Human Rights Centre on the prosecution of historian Yury Dmitriev
Pictured: Sergei Davidis

7 July 2020

Igor Sevriugin talks withi Sergei Davidis about the prosecution of Yury Dmitriev

Source: Nastoyashchee vremya

At the trial at the Petrozavodsk City Court, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has requested 15 years in a maximum security facility for historian Yury Dmitriev. Dmitriev is the head of the Karelian branch of the Memorial Society and one of the foremost researchers of the burial sites of victims of Stalinist repression. The historian was accused of sexually assaulting his adoptive daughter. He denies any guilt and his defence considers the case to be fabricated.

I discussed the situation with Sergei Davidis, director of the Memorial Human Rights Centre’s Programme for the Support of Political Prisoners.  

Could you comment on the decision of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to demand such a long sentence of 15 years?

The State has demonstrated an unwillingness to take either facts or public opinion into account. The crime of which Dmitriev has been, without any foundation, accused carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years. So, the punishment requested is quite conceivable. The problem is that he didn’t commit this crime, and that all the evidence that the prosecution is trying to present lacks any validity. 

Who would want to do this? Who do you think is behind it?

This is the most difficult question as, technically, we of course don’t know who specifically gave the order or who is directly controlling the proceedings. But we have seen that Dmitriev’s activity in working to develop historical memory and establish and support international cooperation around memorial sites where people of various nationalities are buried are negatively received by authorities that are increasingly isolationist and supportive of autarky and the separation of Russia from the rest of the world. Dmitriev became an increasingly awkward figure for local authorities. And this is a possible motive. We see that the Russian Military Historical Society, after Dmitriev’s arrest, and while he has been in jail, has been actively trying to destroy his life’s work – the Sandarmokh memorial park – trying unconvincingly and without any evidence to prove that it was not a memorial for victims of Stalinist repression at all, but a memorial for victims of the Finnish occupation. 

And we can see how Dmitriev’s prosecution is being used as propaganda. In Ekaterinburg they took down plaques marking the last homes of victims of Stalinist repressions and replaced them with vile, false leaflets with accusations against Dmitriev.

All this all leads us to believe that this is for the benefit of the authorities. Even the very sequence of events, in which an acquitted person is arrested again and charged again with the same absurd and clearly completely fabricated accusations, suggests that this is being directly carried out on political orders. 

Translated by Verity Hemp

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