A Russian court extended the 13-year jail term of historian Yuri Dmitriev by another two years, taking his total sentence to 15 years.
The historian, who uncovered mass graves of’s Gulags, was convicted last year for sexually abusing his adopted daughter, a charge he has denied.
On Monday, Petrozavodsk City Court found him guilty of possessing images of child sexual abuse and indecent acts against his adopted daughter, as wells as possession of weapon components, as it increased his jail sentence.
Dmitriev, 65, a local head of the prominent Russian rights group Memorial, was first arrested in December 2016 for possessing naked photographs of his adopted daughter, reported DW, he was however acquitted in 2018.
According to the outlet, the historian said, the nude photographs were related to the child’s malnourishment in case of problems with social services, as she was underweight at the time of the adoption. The experts backed his claims and classified the images as not that of child sex abuse.
The case was however, opened a few months later and he was found guilty of sexual assault in July last year.
He was initially awarded a jail sentence of 3 and half years and was due to be released in November 2020, reported Reuters. However, weeks before his release, the Petrozavodsk city court in’s northwestern Karelia region abruptly extended the jail term by a decade.
In a statement on its website on Monday, the court said it was increasing the sentence by another two years and that the historian would be held in a high-security penal colony.
The Human Rights Centre Memorial recognised Dmitriyev as a political prisoner, while his attorneys told the Associated Press, that they intend to move court against the ruling.
The United States Embassy in Moscow had last year condemned the 13-year sentence awarded to him. “The Karelian supreme court’s decision to prolong historian Yury Dmitriev’s already unjust sentence by an outrageous 10 additional years is another step backwards for human rights and historical truths in Russia,” spokeswoman Rebecca Ross said on.
His supporters claim that the charges against Dmitriev are fabricated and he is being punished for uncovering mass graves from the Stalin-era containing the bodies of people held in Soviet prison camps known as Gulags. During the period 1987-1938, described as the “Great Terror,” the officials estimate the execution of around 700,000 people, who were deemed disloyal to him.
Since the early 1990s, Dmitriev worked to locate the execution sites of Stalin in Karelia and through work in the archives, found around 9,000 hidden graves of Stalin’s victims, reported the New York Times.
Additional reporting from the wires