On July 5, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that the Moscow region’s police department must grant Georgy Shakhet, a Russian actor, access to archival files concerning the criminal case against his grandfather, Pavel Zabotin. In 1933, Zabotin was executed on the orders of one of the NKVD’s notorious extrajudicial sentencing panels, or “Troikas.” Shakhet has been fighting for access to his grandfather’s case since 2016, and since 2018, he has been demanding that his grandfather be legally rehabilitated. The rehabilitation process, which is intended to restore the reputation of those targeted in the Stalinist repressions, must often be conducted posthumously because so many victims of those repressions were killed or died in labor camps. However, like many before him, Georgy Shakhet has found that rehabilitation is impossible without access to the case materials of the individual in question. Those case materials, in turn, cannot be released unless the target of the case has been rehabilitated. Shakhet is the first person to have successfully argued in court that the resulting catch-22 only emerged because law enforcement agencies incorrectly interpreted Russian law.

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