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Yury Dmitriyev Russian Gulag historian detained again after acquittal on child porn charges

A Russian Gulag historian, Yury Dmitriyev, acquitted of child pornography charges, has been detained again, his lawyer told AFP on Thursday, in what is seen as a huge blow for the embattled rights community.

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Dmitriyev spent decades locating and exhuming mass graves of people killed under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's rule play

Dmitriyev spent decades locating and exhuming mass graves of people killed under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's rule

(AFP/File)

A Russian Gulag historian, Yury Dmitriyev, acquitted of child pornography charges, has been detained again, his lawyer told AFP on Thursday, in what is seen as a huge blow for the embattled rights community.

The authorities' turnabout in the high-profile case takes place during Moscow's hosting of the World Cup amid what Human Rights Watch has called "the worst human rights crisis in Russia since the Soviet era."

Dmitriyev was detained on Wednesday "in connection with a new criminal case," defence lawyer Viktor Anufriyev told AFP.

He said a court in northwestern Russia, where the historian lives, was scheduled to rule on whether to remand him in custody later Thursday.

The 62-year-old Dmitriyev, whose trial sparked an outcry from rights activists and liberals, spent decades locating and exhuming mass graves of people killed under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's rule.

Activists had said the case against him was an attempt by authorities to muzzle the outspoken historian who has called attention to one of the darkest chapters in Russia's history.

Dmitriyev had spent more than a year in pre-trial detention.

In April, a court acquitted Dmitriyev of pornography charges, in what Russia's liberal rights community called a rare, nearly unbelievable victory in a country where judges almost always side with prosecutors.

The historian was however found guilty of firearm possession and released on conditions that limited his freedom for the next three months.

His defence lawyer said a new criminal case against him apparently centred on the old charge of "sexual abuse."

The old case centred on naked photographs of Dmitriyev's then pre-teen adopted daughter Natalya seized during a search of his home after an anonymous tip-off to police.

Dmitriyev's defence has said the photographs were taken to track the girl's improvement as she recovered from malnutrition.

State-controlled NTV television, known for its attacks on Kremlin critics, said on Wednesday that Dmitriyev apparently planned to flee to Poland.

His defence lawyer denied the charge, saying that the historian did not even have a passport to travel abroad.

"They are either sick or carrying out someone's order," he said of the television channel.

Dmitriyev was detained after a higher court overturned the "not guilty" verdict earlier this month.

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