Russian Court Ups Gulag Historian's Sentence To 13 Years

PETROZAVODSK, Russia -- A court in the northern Russian city of Petrozavodsk has increased the 3 1/2 year prison term given to historian Yury Dmitriyev to 13 years in prison.

The Supreme Court of the Karelia region announced the ruling on September 29.

In July, Dmitriyev was sentenced to 3 1/2 years after he 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 curbing his research into the crimes of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Prosecutors, who had asked for 15 years in prison in the high-profile case, said the original sentence was "too lenient" and appealed the sentence.

Dmitriyev's defense also appealed the sentence, insisting that their client was innocent.

Dmitriyev's main lawyer, Viktor Anufriyev, was unable to attend the September 29 hearing as he is ill and self-quarantined.

Dmitriyev was represented by a lawyer appointed by the court.

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 citizens.

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.