Russia extends prison term for researcher of Stalin purges

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MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian court on Monday extended the prison term handed to an activist who investigated Stalin-era repression to 15 years on what he says are trumped-up charges.

Yuri Dmitriyev, 65, rose to prominence after uncovering mass graves of victims of Stalinist repressions. He was arrested on charges of sexually abusing his adopted daughter, which rights activists have dismissed as fabricated and politically motivated.

Dmitriyev was accused of making child pornography, indecent acts and illegal possession of a part of a weapon. He was acquitted in 2018, only to have the case reopened a few months later.

In July 2020, he was found guilty of sexual assault against his daughter and sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison, which several months later was extended to 13 years. He has already spent five years in prison.

On Monday, the sentence was extended yet again, to 15 years, by the Petrozavodsk city court in the Russian region of Karelia, on the border with Finland. Dmitriyev’s defense lawyers plan to appeal the ruling.

According to the investigators, Dmitriyev was accused of making pornographic materials by taking naked photos of his daughter. Experts during the first trial found the photographs were not pornographic.

Dmitriyev used to head the Karelian branch of the human rights centre Memorial, which recognizes him as a political prisoner. The European Union and several prominent Russian cultural figures have called on Russian authorities to drop the charges.

Memorial’s Human Rights Center, a prominent group that studies and documents political repression in the Soviet Union, is facing closure in Russia for alleged failures to use the “foreign agent” label on all its publications, and for justifying terrorism. The court hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

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