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Prosecutors Of Russian Gulag Historian Plan To Appeal Sentence As Too Lenient

Russian historian Yury Dmitriyev (file photo)
Russian historian Yury Dmitriyev (file photo)

Prosecutors in the northern Russian city of Petrozavodsk have said they will appeal the 3 1/2-year prison term given to historian Yury Dmitriyev.

Gennady Sarayev, children’s rights ombudsman for the Karelia region, told journalists on July 23 that prosecutors believe the sentence handed down a day earlier was too lenient and “does not correspond to common sense.”

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 15 years in prison in the case.

Dmitriyev was convicted of “violent acts of a sexual nature committed against a person under 14 years of age,” allegations he denies and that he believes are aimed at stopping his research into the crimes of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

After the sentence was pronounced, Dmitriyev’s lawyer, Viktor Anufriyev, told journalists the historian could be released as early as November if time served during the investigations and the trial are taken into account.

Dmitriyev, 64, is the head of the local branch of the Memorial human rights organization and has spent decades researching extrajudicial executions carried out in Karelia under Stalin.

Dozens of Russian and international scholars, historians, writers, poets, and others have issued statements of support. The European Union has called for Dmitriyev to be released.

The high-profile case dates back to 2016, when Dmitriyev was arrested on child-pornography charges based on photographs of his foster daughter that authorities found on his computer. Dmitriyev said the images were not pornographic and were made at the request of social workers concerned about the child’s physical development.

He was acquitted in April 2018, but the Karelia Supreme Court upheld an appeal by prosecutors and ordered a new trial.

He was rearrested in June 2018 and charged with the more serious crime of sexual assault against a minor.

Dmitriyev’s research has been viewed with hostility by the government of President Vladimir Putin. Under Putin, Stalin has undergone a gradual rehabilitation, and the Russian government has emphasized his leadership of the Soviet Union while downplaying his crimes against the Soviet people.

Under Stalin, millions of people were executed, sent to labor camps, or starved to death in famines caused by forced collectivization. During World War II, entire ethnic groups were deported to remote areas as collective punishment for alleged collaboration with the Nazis.

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