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Russian gulag historian, facing ‘absurd’ child pornography charges, to be freed soon: lawyer

Yury Dmitriyev’s case had been used by state television to discredit the human rights movement

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 1:41pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 9:33pm

Russian historian Yury Dmitriyev, who researched gulag grave sites and was put on trial on child pornography charges, will be freed from arrest next month, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Dmitriyev, 61, has been under arrest since last December, on allegations he made pornographic materials by photographing his adopted daughter, a charge his supported have mocked. State television has used his case in a smear film discrediting the Russian human rights movement.

But Dmitriyev’s lawyer Viktor Anufriyev said that a new expert concluded that the photographs are not pornographic and a court Wednesday ruled to let him out from arrest on January 28.

“Yesterday we received the results of an expert evaluation which completely lifts the accusations,” he said. “The photographs are not recognised as pornographic.”

He added that Dmitriyev will also be sent for a psychiatric evaluation to Moscow, on request of the defence.

Dmitriyev has served for many years as head of a branch in the northwestern Karelia region’s top human rights organisation Memorial, which works with the history and legacy of Soviet repression.

He spent decades researching several sites in Karelia where people had been executed during the Stalin purges, amassing thousands of names of victims. He also helped open the Sandarmokh memorial, a forest plot where mass graves have been found of people executed in 1937-38.

Memorial had launched a petition in defence of Dmitriyev, in which they call the pornography charges, as well as paedophilia charges added later, “absurd” and say the case is fabricated. The petition has gathered more than 38,000 signatures.

His defence argues that the photographs of his daughter were made privately to track her health following the adoption due to the child’s malnourished state, and had been seized during an illegal search after an anonymous tip to the police.