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Independent Experts Prevented From Evaluating Mental Health Of Shaman Seeking To Drive Putin Out

Aleksandr Gabyshev set off for Moscow in March 2019 and walked more than 2,000 kilometers, before being stpped by tthe police and sent back.
Aleksandr Gabyshev set off for Moscow in March 2019 and walked more than 2,000 kilometers, before being stpped by tthe police and sent back.

YAKUTSK, Russia -- The Supreme Court of the Siberian region of Yakutia has excluded independent experts from taking part in evaluation of the mental health of a local shaman, who gained notoriety for claiming to have a plan to remove Russian President Vladimir Putin from power.

Olga Timofeyeva, a lawyer for Aleksandr Gabyshev, told RFE/RL that the court's July 3 ruling annulled its own decision made just the day before to allow independent psychiatrists to evaluate her client.

Timofeyeva said that the court also rejected a motion from Gabyshev's lawyers to release him from the clinic where he was forcibly placed in May.

"We are getting ready to appeal the ruling, because it does not make sense. The psychiatric clinic's medical personnel will check their own decision, according to which, Gabyshev needs psychiatric treatment in the facility," Timofeyeva said, adding that the ruling violates the principle of independent examination of her client.

After Gabyshev was forcibly placed in a psychiatric clinic against his will on May 12, his lawyers filed a complaint with the European Court for Human Rights, challenging the move, which they said was illegal.

Gabyshev was briefly released on May 29, a day after Timofeyeva filed a complaint with the Yakutsk city court, questioning the legality of the forced placement in the clinic.

But a court in Yakutsk subsequently ruled on June 2 that Gabyshev must be confined in a psychiatric clinic.

Several local and federal politicians and officials have challenged Gabyshev's forced stay in the clinic in Yakutsk, Yakutia's capital, equating it with a Soviet-era practice to muzzle dissent.

Amnesty International said Gabyshev "has been made an enemy of the state solely for voicing his dislike of Putin."

"By co-opting first the police and now the psychiatric system to do their bidding, the Russian authorities have revealed the astonishing lengths they will go to repress critics," the London-based human-rights watchdog said.

In early May, Gabyshev posted a video on YouTube that showed him performing a traditional Yakut shaman's dance while chanting, "Very soon you all will break free."

Gabyshev first made headlines last year when he called Putin "evil" and announced a march to Moscow to drive the Russian president out of the Kremlin.

He set off for Moscow in March 2019 and walked more than 2,000 kilometers, speaking with hundreds of Russians along the way.

Shaman On 8,000-Kilometer Trek 'To Topple Putin'
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As his notoriety rose, videos of his conversations with people were posted on social media and attracted millions of views.

In July, when Gabyshev reached the city of Chita, he led a 700-strong rally under the slogan "Russia without Putin!"

At the time, Gabyshev said, "God told me that Putin is not human but a demon, and has ordered me to drive him out."

His march was halted when he was detained in the region of Buryatia in September.

Shaman On Trek 'To Topple Putin' Seized By Masked Men
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He was transferred to Yakutia, where he was confined to a psychiatric clinic.

Gabyshev was released in October, after independent experts hired by his lawyers challenged the local psychiatrists' diagnosis of mental instability, concluding that Gabyshev is sane, does not need treatment in a psychiatric clinic, and is not a danger to society.

In December, Gabyshev and two supporters attempted to resume the march toward Moscow, ignoring Yakutia's sub-zero temperatures.

But they were stopped again by police and forced to return.

Shamans have served as healers and diviners in Siberia for centuries. During the Soviet era, the mystics were harshly repressed. But in isolated parts of Siberia, they are now regaining prominence.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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