Soviet Psychiatry Returns
Published: October 14, 2013 (Issue # 1781)
On Oct. 8, a verdict was announced in the case of Mikhail Kosenko, one of the demonstrators in the May 6, 2012 protest march at Moscow's Bolotnaya Ploshchad. Kosenko was just one of the 28 people accused in the case, but his verdict was immediately picked up by the press and caused mass protests outside the courtroom. The crowd chanted "Misha!" so loudly that Judge Lyudmila Moskalenko could barely be heard in the courtroom.
Kosenko is 38 years old. While serving in the army he suffered a head injury, which resulted in mental illness and depression. For the last 12 years he has been under the care of a psychiatrist, who prescribed antidepressants and a mild sedative to help him sleep. On May 6, 2012 he was on Bolotnaya Ploshchad, arrested, paid a fine and went home. But on June 8 of that year, Kosenko was arrested again, this time accused of the more serious crime of participation in mass riots and resisting police officers.
The trial of Kosenko has become emblematic for many reasons. For one, its legality is right out of the Franz Kafka playbook. For many months, the judge did not permit the defense to question witnesses who stood next to Kosenko on May 6 or to view a video that captured the incident used to incriminate him.
At the very end of the trial, the witnesses were heard and the video was finally viewed. Both proved Kosenko's innocence. Kosenko stood at a distance of at least 10 meters from the police, who scuffled with other demonstrators. The witnesses, including Alexander Podrabinek, a prominent Soviet-era dissident and currently Radio France Internationale commentator, testified that Kosenko stood next to him and did not brawl with police. Nevertheless, all this seemingly irrefutable testimony was dismissed by Moskalenko.
During the trial, Kosenko's elderly mother became ill. The judge refused to grant her permission to see her son. She died on Sept. 5. Kosenko's lawyers and Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, asked the judge to allow Kosenko to attend his mother's funeral, taking full personal responsibility for him. But the judge did not allow it.
Specialists from the Serbsky Psychiatric Institute played an even more Kafkaesque role in the Kosenko case. Specialists from the institute, which was notorious during the Soviet era for its leading role in punitive psychiatry, made a highly questionable diagnosis after just one brief conversation.
Pages:  [2 ]