Court Refuses To Close Case Against Shaman Who Wants Putin Out

YAKUTSK, Russia -- A court in Russia's far eastern city of Yakutsk has refused to close an extremism case against a Yakut shaman, Aleksandr Gabyshev, who was detained last month while walking from Siberia toward Moscow with the declared aim of "driving [President Vladimir] Putin out of the Kremlin."

Gabyshev supporter Yevgeny Rostokin told RFE/RL that the Yakutsk City Court pronounced its ruling on October 18.

The shaman's lawyer, Olga Timofeyeva, told the hearing that the decision to launch the extremism probe against Gabyshev was made in violation of a law that states a criminal case must be open in the region where the alleged crime took place, which in Gabyshev's case is not his native region of Yakutia, but the region of Buryatia, where he was detained on September 19.

Gabyshev had covered more than 2,000 kilometers by foot since his journey began in March, speaking with hundreds of people along the way. As his notoriety rose, videos of his conversations with people have appeared on social media, attracting millions of views.

In July, when he reached the city of Chita, Gabyshev gathered some 700 people under the slogan "Russia without Putin!" The shaman said then that "God told me Putin is not a human, but instead a demon and has ordered me to drive him out."

After his detainment in Buryatia in September, authorities transferred Gabyshev to Yakutia, where he was first placed in a psychiatric clinic and later released.

Gabyshev was told he was suspected of inciting extremism among Russian citizens and ordered not to leave Yakutia's capital, Yakutsk.

Earlier in October, psychiatrists in Yakutsk said Gabyshev was mentally unstable, but his lawyers, who feared that a court could send their client to a psychiatric clinic for forced treatment, rejected the medical conclusion and arranged an examination by independent experts.

On September 17, a legal coordinator of opposition Open Russia organization, Aleksei Pryanishnikov, told RFE/RL that independent experts concluded that Gabyshev is mentally sound, does not need forced treatment in a psychiatric clinic, and is not a danger to society.

Open Russia's human rights coordinator, Valentina Dekhtyarenko, told RFE/RL earlier in October that although Gabyshev is a suspect in a criminal case, he had not been officially charged with any crimes.

Shamans have served as healers and diviners in Siberia for centuries. During the Soviet age of "science and reason," the mystical figures were harshly repressed. But in isolated regions of Siberia, they are regaining importance.