Human Lives Human Rights: A Russian court in July sentenced a Siberian shaman critical of President Vladimir Putin to enforced treatment in a psychiatric hospital for assaulting a member of Russia’s National Guard.
Alexander Gabyshev drew media attention when he set off in 2019 on what he said would be an 8,000-km (5,000-mile) walk to Moscow, a journey he said would culminate with the banishment of Putin, whom he described as a demon.
Gabyshev has made several attempts at the journey, but was always stopped by police, who took him back to Yakutsk, his home town in eastern Siberia.
When he announced his latest attempt, in January, he was arrested at his home, allegedly assaulting a guard who had come to detain him.
In July, the city court of Yakutsk sentenced him to enforced treatment in a psychiatric institution, his lawyer Alexey Pryanishnikov said.
Resistance and Repressive government
Aleksandr Gabyshev has become a symbol of grassroots resistance to the increasingly repressive government of Vladimir Putin, so it is not surprising that the authorities went to such extreme lengths to silence him and smear his name. Once again, the authorities are using ‘psychiatric care’ as a punishment – a method tried and tested during Soviet times.
It is genuinely shocking to see how easily the life of someone who dares to peacefully express their views and criticize the authorities is destroyed by the powerful and repressive tools of the state.
Compulsory psychiatric treatment is a form of torture and other ill-treatment.
Rights groups say that the authorities must refrain from any involuntary therapy and release Aleksandr Gabyshev immediately and unconditionally, as he has been sentenced to indefinite compulsory psychiatric treatment solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. The use of punitive psychiatry as a method to silence dissent must stop now.