Moscow Court Upholds Psychiatric Treatment Sentence

Throwback to Soviet-era tactic for silencing dissidents
Mikhail Kosenko

Mikhail Kosenko / AP

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A Moscow court has upheld a verdict against a protester sentenced to involuntary psychiatric treatment, a throwback to a Soviet-era tactic for silencing dissidents, the Guardian reports.

Mikhail Kosenko, 38, was convicted in October on charges of rioting and assaulting a police officer during 2012 protests against President Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term. Eight other protesters last month received sentences ranging from two-and-a-half to four years in prison.

Kosenko will be forced to undergo the indefinite psychiatric treatment despite witness testimony and video footage showing that he tried to move away from the scuffle where a riot police officer was struck:

Kosenko has mental health issues after a concussion during an army hazing incident nearly two decades ago but has undergone outpatient treatment for it. In an article in the Russian publication Snob, three psychiatrists criticized the sentence and the prosecution’s argument that Kosenko has a dangerous form of schizophrenia. Amnesty International has declared Kosenko a prisoner of conscience and called his sentence a return to the Soviet practice of confining dissidents to psychiatric institutions.

His sister, Maria Kosenko, told the Guardian after the appeal that she and her brother “had a small thread of hope that maybe some sort of mercy and fairness was possible, but it turned out that it wasn’t. This was just another charade of Russian justice, which doesn’t in fact exist.”

Thousands of Soviet dissidents were interned in psychiatric institutions between the 1960s and 1980s.

Activists say the Kremlin has increased domestic repression of dissidents following Ukraine’s ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich.