A Russian court on Monday found historian Yuri Dmitriyev guilty of possessing images of child sexual abuse and indecent acts against his adopted daughter, as well as possession of weapon components.
The Petrozavodsk municipal court thus increased the prison sentence of the eminent Gulag historian to 15 years in total in a penal colony. He had already been sentenced to 13 years for his supporters to insist on charges of fabricated pedophilia.
Dmitriev denies the charges. The historian is the local official of the prominent Russian rights group Memorial, which could be closed by the courts this week.
“Yuri Dmitriyev hears the latest verdict against him – 15 years old,” Memorial said on Twitter.
In the video, the 65-year-old can be heard saying “Thank you for your support.”
Supporters claim Dmitriyev, who has spent his career researching dark periods in Russian history, is being targeted and punished for his work in locating and exhuming mass graves of people killed under the rule of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin .
Dmitriyev also helped open the Sandarmokh Memorial in memory of the thousands of victims murdered in 1937 and 1938.
What are the allegations?
The verdict ends a lengthy episode in which the prosecution accused Dmitriyev of child sexual abuse over a period of several years.
Dmitriyev was first arrested in December 2016 for possessing nude photographs of his adopted daughter, following an anonymous information given to the authorities.
The historian said the nude photos were taken to document the development of the child’s malnutrition when there were issues with social services because she was underweight when the couple took her in.
His claim was backed by experts, who did not classify the footage as child sexual abuse.
Dmitriyev was then charged with illegal possession of gun parts the following year.
In April 2018, he was cleared of everything except the firearms charge. Two months later, however, the Regional Supreme Court overturned the verdict based on an investigator’s interview with his adopted daughter, who was – 12 at the time – shortly after her acquittal.
The case was sent back to court with an additional charge of sexual abuse, linked to improper touching.
Artists, writers speak out in favor of Dmitriyev
Russia’s treatment of Dmitriyev has also garnered international support.
Earlier this month, several Russian artists, authors and journalists spoke out in favor of Dmitriyev and denounced the charges against him.
In a separate appeal to the Council of Europe in 2020, prominent writers, including Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich and Jonathan Littell, called the historian “a bone in the throat of the authorities.”
“The Russian authorities seek to rewrite the history of Sandarmokh by slandering its discoverer and baselessly accusing Dmitriyev of a scandalous crime,” they said.
mvb / dj (Interfax, AFP, Reuters)