Human rights group ‘Memorial’ declares Yakut shaman a political prisoner
The Human Rights Center Memorial is calling for the release of Alexander Gabyshev, a shaman from the Siberian city of Yakutsk, who was forcibly hospitalized at a psychiatric clinic at the beginning of June.
Gabyshev is best known for making multiple attempts to travel on foot to Moscow with the intention of exorcising President Vladimir Putin.
“The Human Rights Center Memorial considers Alexander Gabyshev a political prisoner,” the statement on the group’s website reads. “He was deprived of freedom solely because of his political and religious beliefs.”
According to Memorial, no legal grounds for involuntary hospitalization have been convincingly proven in Gabyshev’s case.
Doctors and government officials talked about Gabyshev’s hospitalization in a political way, clearly linking it to the shaman’s growing popularity and public influence.
Alexander Gabyshev, a self-described shaman, first set off from Yakutsk with plans to “expel Putin” from the Kremlin in the spring of 2019. Since then, Russian law enforcement have arrested Gabyshev, sent him for psychiatric assessment, and initiated proceedings against him on multiple occasions.
In December 2019, Gabyshev announced a second attempt at his campaign, but he was immediately detained and fined for disobeying police. Gabyshev planned a third attempt at his walk in March 2020.
Gabyshev was forcibly taken to a psychiatric clinic in Yakutsk on May 12 and has been kept there ever since. He filed a claim refusing further hospitalization on May 29, after which the clinic’s medical commission deemed him a danger to himself and others. On June 2, the Yakutsk City Court ruled in favor of continuing Gabyshev’s forced hospitalization.
According to the coordinator of the rights group “Human Rights Postcards” (“Pravozashchity Otkrytki”), Alexey Pryanishnikov, the Yakutsk clinic where Gabyshev is being held filed the lawsuit, but the claim does not include a description of the state of his health. Instead, it says that he is suffering from a “reassessment of his identity,” given that he planned to “harm the government and overthrow Putin, since he is a demon and the Antichrist,” and “called for the overthrow of the legally elected authorities.”