French Ambassador for Human Rights François Croquette and Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance Bärbel Kofler issued the following statement today (30 September):
We are shocked by yesterday's sentence by the Supreme Court of Karelia against historian Yuri Dmitriyev, which will send him to prison camp for another 13 years. This came after a trial that was anything but fair. It is clear that this is a renewed attempt to silence those who are investigating crimes which happend in Russia's past in an effort to preserve the memory of the Stalinist terror. Mr Dmitriyev and his work deserve our support. We call on Russia to release him and to end the harassment against civil society.
The historian Yuri Dmitriyev has been in detention since 2016. Prior to that, he had been investigating and publicising mass shootings in Sandarmokh during the Stalinist era since the late eighties as head of the Karelian branch of the human rights organisation Memorial.
An initial trial on child pornography charges relating to photographs of his foster daughter in 2016, which had been intended to document the girl’s physical underdevelopment, ended in April 2018 with an acquittal. This was immediately reversed in June 2018 and child abuse charges were added. On 22 July 2020, Dmitriyev was sentenced to three and a half years in prison camp. Taking into account his time in pre-trial detention, this would have made it possible to release him in November 2020. Even this conviction was regarded by Memorial and other human rights organisations as politically motivated, especially as the trial largely took place behind closed doors. On 29 September, Dmitriyev was sentenced to 13 years in prison camp by the Supreme Court of the Russian Republic of Karelia.