Defense lawyers for Maxim Yefimov, a blogger from the northern Russian region of Karelia charged with inciting hatred for criticizing corruption in the Russian Orthodox Church, have appealed against his stay in a clinic for psychiatric examination.
The lawyers have appealed the court decision on concerns that Yefimov, the chair of Youth Human Rights Group Karelia, might be left in the hospital indefinitely. They added that they had secured opinions from a few recognized psychiatry experts in the country.
“The information from the psychiatric experts indicates that Yefimov has not and is not suffering from any disorders … which is why the recommendation to put him in hospital for examination is unsubstantiated,” said Olga Rybalova, the blogger’s lawyer.
In December 2011, Yefimov published an article called Karelia Tired of Priests on the internet denouncing corruption in the church, and citing the examples of church using budget allocations for church construction and of church organizations occupying buildings in sorely needed nursery schools in the region.
Viktor Rossypnov, head of the Karelian investigation committee, accused Yefimov of seeking media attention by saying that he might end up in a psychiatric hospital by force.
“His statements are not based on any evidence and absurd because by law a person who has committed a minor offense in the state of insanity is free from any criminal punishment, and … therefore no forced hospital treatment is ordered,” he said.
Human rights activists have condemned Yefimov’s prosecution.
“There are no reasons to commit Yefimov to a mental hospital,” said Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of Moscow Helsinki Group. “This is an old Soviet practice: people undesirable to the authorities are pronounced mad. It is absolutely illegal.”
Another member of this rights group, Valery Borshev, said that in Soviet times “punitive psychiatry” was applied to the church faithful, but now the situation is reversed as the authorities try to use psychiatry against atheists.