Attacks on the Memorial Society Continue

By | March 13, 2017

On March 9, 2017, Yury Dmitriev, head of the Karelian branch of the International Memorial Society, was additionally charged in the Petrozavodsk City Court (Karelia). As I’ve already written, previously he was charged with child pornography (Article 242.2 of the Russian Criminal Code). Now charges of dissolute acts against a minor (Article 135) and illegal possession of weapons (Article 222) were included. It was not reported what kind of weapons was in question, but, according to the judge, a ballistic examination will be necessary.

The 60-year-old Dmitriev was detained on December 13, after a search in his apartment, during which his computer and mobile phone were seized. He was charged with “the use of a person under 14 years of age for manufacturing pornographic materials” – by making photos of his naked 11-year-old adopted daughter. On December 15, Dmitriev was officially arrested.

The whole case is an evident provocation. As Dmitriev’s attorney Viktor Anufriev stated, Dmitriev made photos for the guardianship authorities for recording the progress in the physical condition of the adopted daughter: “[Dmitriev] took a girl in a bad physical condition, and she was developing slowly. Before becoming a foster father, he took special courses, received a certificate, and the authorities told him that for such physically neglected children they recommend to keep a photo album to compare how the development is going on.”

Dmitriev kept the photos in his home computer. He did not print them out and did not send them anywhere. According to the lawyer, on December 10, a community policeman invited Dmitriev to the local police station and talked to him about nothing for four hours. But after returning home, Dmitriev found that someone visited his apartment in his absence. On December 12, the local Investigative Directorate received an anonymous denunciation with printed photos of the girl.

In Anufriev’s opinion, Dmitriev’s actions do not have any corpus delicti: “Photographing a child by parents or adoptive parents … does not constitute a crime. A photo of a child, even naked, and pornography are completely different things.”

The arrest of the historian Dmitriev is clearly an act of revenge of the local officials for his public activity.  Dmitriev is Secretary of the Petrozavodsk Commission and a member of the Karelian Commission on Restoration of the Rights of Rehabilitated Victims of Political Repressions. Since 1997, he has been chairing the NGO “Academy of Social and Legal Protection.” In the late 1990s, Dmitriev led expeditions that discovered sites of mass executions of political prisoners in the Sandarmokh Place and Red Forest located in Karelia. He was one of the founders of the memorial complex “Sandarmokh.” In the 1930s, on this site over 9.5 thousand of political prisoners were executed, including the famous representatives of the Ukrainian culture, the writer Valerian Pidmogilny and theater director Les Kurbas.

The International Memorial Society, as well as Ukrainian historians and public figures, made official statements in support of Dmitriev. Representatives of “Memorial” stressed the fact that Dmitriev was arrested shortly after the Society published its database of the NKVD employees of the 1930s on the Internet. After the publication, the Memorial Society received threats and unambiguous “recommendations” to close the site.

In the meantime, on March 10, 2017, the Moscow City Court recognized as legal the fine of 300 thousand rubles previously ruled for the International Memorial Society by the Tverskoi Regional Court of Moscow for refusing to register voluntarily as a “foreign agent.” The penalty came into force.

Jan Rachinsky, a member of the board of the International Memorial Society, commented on the last court decision: “This decision is incorrect […] it is based on the idea that the [“Memorial”] organization is not international [because it is international it is not subject to this law], which does not correspond to reality. We will appeal the decision on the fine in the Supreme Court […] and in the European Court of Human Rights.”

Author: Vadim Birstein

Dr. Vadim J. Birstein is a historian and geneticist. He is the author of over 300 scientific papers and books and has written two scholarly historical works, “The Perversion of Knowledge: The True Story of Soviet Science” and “SMERSH, Stalin’s Secret Weapon: Soviet Military Counterintelligence in WWII”. He received the inaugural “St. Ermin’s Intelligence Book Award” in 2012 for SMERSH.

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