= If the verdict is to comply with the law =
The trial of YURY DMITRIEV, director of the branch of Memorial human rights organization in Karelia, began on 1 June in Petrozavodsk City Court in a closed hearing.
He is accused of making pornographic pictures of his adopted daughter. “Committing acts of debauchery” and “illegal possession of basic firearm parts” were later added to that charge.
Yury Dmitriev was arrested 13 December 2016. The case against him was initiated on the basis of an anonymous complaint. Dmitriev himself stated that not long before his arrest, strangers got into his flat and rummaged through his computer. Photographs of his adopted daughter in a naked state were found on his computer during the subsequent police search.
A programme “What the Memorial Society is Hiding” was broadcast on the Russia-24 TV channel on 10 January 2017. Before the trial, journalist ZOYA SVETOVA spoke with Dmitriev’s attorney VICTOR ANUFRIEV and his colleagues at the International Memorial Society in Moscow.
Attorney Victor Anufriyev: “Yury Dmitriev should be acquitted”
How does Yury Dmitriev himself explain his criminal prosecution?
His position is unchanged. All the photographs, on which the charges are based, were part of a “daily health journal”. The photographs were made to record the physical development of his adoptive daughter, because she had fallen behind in physical development. There isn’t a hint of what he’s accused of in those photographs. My opinion, as defence attorney, is that his actions do not constitute a crime. And why has this case emerged? It’s worth looking beyond the scope of this case for the answer.
An expert opinion on the photographs was filed as the basis of the charges [of 140 photographs, experts found signs of pornography in nine — Open Russia]. We call into question its conclusion. There is a dispute over the analysis. We requested a repeat analysis; we cited reasons why the expert opinion did not inspire our trust and is not substantiated evidence. The investigators refused our request. We challenged this denial at the Petrozavodsk City Court, but the court also refused our request. This was strange, because our request had strong legal grounds. We appealed against that court’s refusal at the Supreme Court of Karelia, and on 5 June our appeal will be considered. The court of first instance that is hearing the case can also appoint its own expert evaluation, but we would like to get the decision of the Karelian Supreme Court and see how it assesses the actions of the investigators. For us, that is important.
Will many defence witnesses appear in court?
Nine Photographs, which supposedly contain elements of pornography, are being used as evidence against Yury Dmitriev; i.e. he clicked the shutter nine times on his telephone or camera, then saved the photographs to his computer, and archived them. But he didn’t touch them anymore, didn’t distribute them, didn’t print them, didn’t look at them himself. He has explained why these photographs were necessary, and these explanations are entirely reasonable and well grounded. Therefore, there are no witnesses for the prosecution in this case, just as there are no full-fledged witnesses for the defence. For example, his older daughter Katerina will speak in court. Just think for yourself: what kind of witness would she make for the prosecution? So, there are no witnesses as such. And that’s why there are no witnesses for the defence who would be able to say something about the circumstances of the case. Yes, we will have witnesses for the defence. We will enter a request for their examination in court. But in principle they will be people who know him from work, from his social activism, from his work on the excavation of Soviet mass burials.
Will his adoptive daughter appear in court?
Yes, she will be examined in the presence of her legal representative. She doesn’t say anything bad about Yury Dmitriev. She wants to live with him. She writes text messages to his older daughter Ekaterina. She asks when Papa will be released, she wants to be with him. So, there are no witnesses who would accuse Dmitriev of anything.
And the Child Protection Services? Surely, they can corroborate that they gave Dmitriev instructions to record the child’s development in photographs?
No, they didn’t give him such instructions. There are circumstances which forced him to make those photographs.
Do you hope that the case will fall apart in court?
If the verdict is to comply with the law, it must be an acquittal. It can’t be otherwise. But unfortunately, application of the law can be something different, and that’s why I cannot and will not make any predictions. There are two possible outcomes: a judgment in compliance with the law, in which case Dmitriev should be acquitted; or a judgment based on other circumstances that have no relation to this criminal case. In the latter case, the outcome may be quite the opposite.
More on Dmitriev in this issue:
Sergei Krivenko (Memorial)
A political prosecution
Alexander Daniel (Memorial)
He roused the Dragon
A letter from prison
First published by Оpen Russia on 1 June 2017
Translations by Anna Bowles, Elizabeth Teague,
Mark Nuckols, Nicky Brown and Will Dudley