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Supporters Rally For Prominent Gulag Historian Who Faces Lengthy Prison Term

Russian historian Yury Dmitriyev speaks to the media following the verdict in his child-pornography trial in the city of Petrozavodsk on April 5, 2018.
Russian historian Yury Dmitriyev speaks to the media following the verdict in his child-pornography trial in the city of Petrozavodsk on April 5, 2018.

PETROZAVODSK, Russia -- More than a dozen people have demonstrated in Russia's northwestern region of Karelia to protest a prosecutor's request that a court sentence Russian historian and human rights activist Yury Dmitriyev to 15 years in prison on charges of sexually assaulting his adopted daughter.

One of the 15 protesters, Andrei Razumov, told RFE/RL that the single-person pickets by Dmitriyev's supporters on July 8 were held "to defend" the historian, who is also a renowned gulag researcher, saying the charges were brought against him because of his research into a side of history that complicates the Kremlin's glorification of the Soviet past.

One of the picketers, journalist Viktoria Ivleva, was detained by police.

The day before, the prosecution argued its case and asked the Petrozavodsk City Court to sentence the 64-year-old head of the Karelia branch of the Moscow-based human rights group Memorial to 15 years in prison as the high-profile trial entered its final stage.

Dmitriyev's lawyer, Viktor Anufriyev, said on July 8 that the verdict and sentence of his client were expected to be pronounced on July 22.

Dmitriyev was arrested in 2016 on child-pornography charges based on photographs of his adopted daughter that the authorities found on his computer.

He has maintained his innocence, contending that the images were not pornographic and were made at the request of social workers concerned about the child's development. He says the case is an attempt to thwart his research into extrajudicial executions in Karelia under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

A local court acquitted Dmitriyev in April 2018, but the Karelia Supreme Court subsequently upheld an appeal by prosecutors and ordered a new trial.

The historian was rearrested in June 2018 and is currently on trial on the more severe charge of "violent acts of a sexual nature committed against a person under 14 years of age."

Dmitriyev's decades-long efforts to expose the extent of Stalin's crimes have been viewed with hostility by President Vladimir Putin's administration.

In May, dozens of Russian scholars, historians, writers, poets, opposition politicians, artists, and actors signed an open letter asking the Karelia Supreme Court to release Dmitriyev, expressing concerns over the researcher's health after positive cases of the coronavirus were reported in the detention center where he is being held.

The European Union has called on the Russian authorities to release Dmitriyev and reconsider the charges against him.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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