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Russian court extends jail term for Gulag historian to 15 years

Dmitriev, who worked with prominent rights
group Memorial documenting Soviet-era repression, was found guilty in July last
year of sexually abusing his adopted daughter, a charge he denied. Russia’s
Supreme Court in October refused to consider his appeal.

Dmitriev was initially sentenced to 3-1/2
years and due to be freed in November 2020 because of time served. But weeks
before his release the Petrozavodsk city court in Russia’s northwestern Karelia
region abruptly added a decade to his term.

In a statement on its website on Monday, the
court said the sentence had been extended by a further two years and Dmitriev
would be held in a high-security penal colony. Dmitriev’s lawyer said he would
appeal the ruling, independent news outlet Sota Vision reported.

Dmitriev’s supporters say his case is
retribution for exposing Stalin’s crimes, including the 1937-1938 Great Terror
when officials estimate at least 700,000 people were executed. Dmitriev found a
mass grave containing thousands of bodies of people held in the Gulags, the
Soviet prison camp network.

The Soviet state disavowed Stalin’s
repressions after the dictator’s death in 1953, but some still revere him for
leading the country during its World War Two victory. Rights campaigners accuse
Russia’s authorities of blocking efforts to account fully for Soviet
repression.

Memorial, a rights group founded by Soviet-era
dissidents, has said the accusations against Dmitriev were groundless. Memorial
itself faces the threat of being shut down at the behest of state prosecutors
who accuse it of disobeying laws requiring groups to register as “foreign
agents”.

The US embassy last year condemned Dmitriev’s
long jail term, describing it as a setback for human rights and historical
truth in Russia. The Kremlin has said it is not involved in his case.

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