Memorial Human Rights Centre: Aleksandr Gabyshev, a shaman from Yakutsk, is a political prisoner

25 June 2020

Aleksandr Gabyshev,  suspected of inciting extremism, has been forcibly hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital.

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre

Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Aleksandr Gabyshev a political prisoner, in line with international guidelines defining this term. He has been imprisoned solely for his political and religious beliefs, and also on account of his non-violent exercise of the rights to freedom of movement, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and freedom of conscience and religion. We call for his immediate and unconditional release and for his full rehabilitation with compensation for the harm caused to him.

Who is Aleksandr Gabyshev and what is he suspected of?

Aleksandr Gabyshev, a hereditary shaman from Yakutsk, made three attempts to walk to Moscow, and planned a fourth. He intended to conduct a ritual expulsion of a ‘devil’ from Vladimir Putin there.

On 12 September 2019 criminal proceedings were instituted against Gabyshev with regard to incitement to extremist activities (Article 280, Part 1, of the Criminal Code). This was how investigators from the Investigative Committee interpreted statements by Gabyshev made on YouTube videos about his march to Moscow, filmed between 6 March and 22 May 2019. According to lawyers acting for Gabyshev, the investigators intentionally took Gabyshev’s words out of context. Despite the fact that the criminal proceedings were initiated back in September last year, the shaman has still not been charged.

On 12 May 2020 Gabyshev was held in isolation in Yakutsk Republic Psychiatric Hospital under the guise of conducting a coronavirus test. On 2 June Yakutsk city court ruled he should be subject to compulsory hospitalization there on the alleged grounds of a serious psychiatric disorder.

Why does Memorial consider Gabyshev a political prisoner?

As soon as Gabyshev’s activities became well known, the authorities undertook measures to prevent him exercising his rights. Criminal proceedings were initiated against him after a rally on behalf of his supporters, and he was detained in a psychiatric hospital after he announced a new march to Moscow.

Doctors and representatives of the authorities talk about Gabyshev’s hospitalization in a political manner, clearly linking it to Gabyshev’s growing popularity and the influence of the shaman on public opinion.

None of the legal grounds for enforced hospitalization have been convincingly proven. On the contrary, the circumstances of the hospitalization and the medical exam indicate the absence of such grounds. The court, which decided to impose compulsory hospitalization on Gabyshev, also failed to examine the situation fully and objectively.

The fact that the investigators have been unable to bring criminal charges against Gabyshev within nine months is evidence in favour of his innocence.

For further information about this case and the position taken by Memorial Human Rights Centre, see our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or as a victim of politically motivated prosecution, does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with their views or statements, or approves their statements or actions.

Address for letters (in English): Aleksandr Prokopievich Gabyshev (1968 dob), GBU RS (Ya) Yakutsk Psychiatric Hospital,  Building No. 14 Kotenko Street, Yakutsk, Sakha Republic (Yakutia), 677005.

Address for letters (in Russian): 677005, Республика Саха (Якутия), г. Якутск, ул. Котенко, д. 14, ГБУ РС (Я) Якутский республиканский психоневрологический диспансер, Габышеву Александру Прокопьевичу, 1968 г.р.

Click on these links to sign the petitions: to release Aleksandr Gabyshev from psychiatric hospital; and to drop criminal charges against him.

You can support all political prisoners by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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