June 5, 2020 / 12:28 PM / a month ago

Shaman critical of Putin loses bid to end enforced psychiatric treatment

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian court on Friday rejected a challenge by a Siberian shaman critical of President Vladimir Putin who says he has been illegally incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital, his lawyer said.

FILE PHOTO: Russia's President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video conference call with members of the Security Council at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia June 4, 2020. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS/File Photo

Alexander Gabyshev drew media attention when he set off last year on an 8,000-km (5,000-mile) walk to Moscow, a journey he said would culminate with him banishing the Russian leader, whom he described as a demon.

Gabyshev made several attempts at the journey, but was always stopped by police, who took him back to Yakutsk, his home town in eastern Siberia. Finally, after being detained again in early May, he was taken to a psychiatric hospital.

Rights activists have said Russia is reviving the Soviet practice of subjecting some of its political dissidents to forced hospitalisation and psychiatric treatment.

Olga Timofeeva, Gabyshev’s lawyer, told Reuters that a Yakutsk city court had dismissed an attempt to have him released and his psychiatric hospitalisation declared illegal.

“The decision was expected. We will appeal,” Timofeeva said, adding that Gabyshev was calm and in good spirits.

Amnesty International has called for Gabyshev’s immediate release from hospital.

Lawmaker Fedot Tumusov, who represents the region of Yakutia in the lower house of the Russian parliament, told the Kommersant newspaper he had asked the general prosecutor to review the competence of the doctors who signed off on Gabyshev’s psychiatric hospitalisation.

Gabyshev was last year accused of extremism, an offence that can carry a prison term, and ordered not to leave Yakutsk.

Shamanism, a belief that it is possible to communicate with and harness the energy of what practitioners perceive to be the spirit world, is practiced in certain parts of Russia.

Editing by Giles Elgood

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