Arkhangelsk historian and archivist on trial on infringement of privacy charges
The lawyer representing one of the two men charged, Alexander Dudarev, has told Radio Svoboda that the plaintiffs in the court hearing against a Russian historian, Mikhail Suprun, accused of illegally revealing personal data have given contradictory testimony. They are relatives of some deported Germans who are supposedly suing Suprun for revealing personal information about their families.
Nikolai Petrov from Memorial has called the trial a “demonstration” by the authorities, a warning to deter people from going near archival material.
The charges are against the Head of the Faculty of Russian History of the Pomorsky State University, Professor Mikhail Suprun and the Head of the Information Centre of the Arkhangelsk Regional Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA], Alexander Dudarev.
On 13 September 2009 searches were carried out at Suprun’s flat and at his working place at the university. Computers and irreplaceable material were removed.
Professor Suprun is suspected of “unlawfully gathering personal data about a person constituting their personal, family secrets without their consent” [Article 137 § 1 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code]. He is also suspected of “inciting an official to commit actions clearly beyond the scope of the person’s powers and leading to considerable violation of citizens’ rights and legitimate interests” [Article 286 with application of Article 33 § 4 of the Criminal Code]. The “official” whom Suprun incited to “exceed his powers” was Colonel Dudarev; the latter is only accused under Article 286.
These charges are the result of Mikhail Suprun’s research, his work on creating a database of Germans deported during the War and in the first post-War years to a special settlement in the Arkhangelsk region – Soviet citizens of German origin and civilians with German citizenship, as well as of German prisoners of war held in Arkhangelsk camps. This study was being carried out within the framework of an agreement concluded in 2007 between the German Red Cros and the Pomorsky University. The main aim of the research is to preserve the memory of the victims of the Second World War and the post-War period.
The investigators claim that the construction by Suprun of a list of five thousand victims of post-War deportations constitutes “the gathering of information about their private life without their consent”. By “an official exceeding his powers” is meant the fact that Colonel Dudarev provided Suprun with access to archival material needed for his research.
The role of the FSB [Federal Security Service] in the case was questioned when the investigation began two years ago. The account given by Dudarev of the plaintiffs’ testimony last week highlights the concern felt as to who is behind the case.
Dudarev said the plaintiffs reminisced about their own experiences and the sufferings of their relatives between the 1940s and 1960s, but when asked precisely what they are accusing the defendants of, they were unable to answer.
"When the judge reminded them that they filed a lawsuit against the defendants, the plaintiffs said Federal Security Service officers had visited them and asked them to write complaints, " he said. "Some of the plaintiffs even stated that they never wrote any complaints. When one of the plaintiffs said that, the judge showed him a document signed by him. The plaintiff was very surprised but said: ’Yes, that is my signature, [I suppose] that means I wrote that complaint.’"
Dudarev added that the investigator even insisted that Suprun be charged with revealing state secrets, as documents with detailed information about the activities of Russia’s intelligence services were found in his personal archive during the investigation. But the prosecutor’s office refused to add that charge to the lawsuit.
The trial is being held behind closed doors.