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Karelia Court Refuses to Place Blogger who Criticized Orthodox Church in Psychiatric Hospital

1 August 2012

Source: Open Information News Agency

Blogger Maksim Efimov. Photo provided to Open Information News Agency by Maksim Efimov

On 1 August Petrozavodsk town court dismissed a request by investigators to place Maksim Efimov (Yefimov), head of the Karelia branch of the Youth Human Rights Group and author of the blog post ‘Karelia is tired of priests’, in a psychiatric hospital for examination.

On 17 July investigator Aleksandr Voronin of the Muezersky district division of the Karelia Investigative Committee had personally withdrawn a similar request, but on 1 August he again resubmitted it. At the same time, he told Olga Rybalova, the lawyer acting for Maksim Efimov (Yefimov), the date and time of the court hearing an hour-and-a-half before it was to begin. As a result the lawyer was unable to attend the court hearing, a correspondent for Open Information News Agency reports. Agora Human Rights Association was informed about the submission of the request by a friend and former school fellow of Maksim Efimov, Andrei Fedorovich, who was present in court. He pointed out that Judge Oleg Grabchuk motivated his decision to dismiss the request by investigator Aleksandr Voronin on the grounds of security of person, the Russian Constitution and the provisions of the Constitutional Court, according to which a court of first instance cannot take decisions to place a person in a psychiatric hospital without their participation in person in a court hearing. Maksim Efimov should have the opportunity to put forward his own arguments concerning the request, the court ruled.

On 28 June the Supreme Court of Karelia ruled the decision by Petrozavodsk town court on the request by investigator Aleksandr Voronin to place Maksim Efimov in a psychiatric hospital was unlawful. On 17 July the same investigator Aleksandr Voronin, acting in the name of the Investigative Committee for Karelia, withdrew the request. At the same time, the reason for issuing a federal arrest warrant for Maksim Efimov had allegedly been the refusal by the civic activist to be placed in a psychiatric hospital, a reason which no longer had any force. On 31 July it became known that the Investigative Committee had announced there was now an international warrant for the arrest of Maksim Efimov. On 1 August investigator Aleksandr Voronin again asked the court to place Maksim Efimov in a psychiatric hospital.

Earlier, Russian psychiatrists and psychologists had publicly criticized the decision to place a healthy person in a psychiatric hospital, and called conclusion of the commission of experts of the Psychiatric Out-Patients’ Hospital of the Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Republic of Karelia, on the basis of which the investigator Aleksandr Voronin had initially sought to have Maksim Efimov placed in a psychiatric hospital, lacking in sound arguments, unfounded and unconvincing. These were the conclusions also reached by Professor Vladimir Mendelevich, a doctor of medical sciences and head of the faculty of medical and general psychology of Kazan State university, a practicing psychiatrist of 32 years’ experience with 14 years’ experience as a clinical psychologist; Vladimir Rubashny, the ex-head of the psychological service of the penitentiary system in Tatarstan, a psychologist with 18 years’ experience and a retired colonel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs; and Viktor Gursky, a doctor, psychiatrist, psychotherapist and narcotics expert at the Nizhny Novgorod Hospital No. 1 for Clinical Psychiatry, who has 28 years’ experience as a doctor and 19 years’ experience as a psychotherapist.

Maksim Efimov is suspected of ‘inciting hatred or enmity, and also debasing the dignity of a group of people in relation to their religion’ (Article 282, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code) for publishing a blog post entitled ‘Karelia is tired of priests.’