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Russian protest artist held in Moscow psychiatric hospital

The Serbsky Center may also host hearings next week in criminal trial against Pyotr Pavlensky

by Sophia Kishkovsky  |  29 January 2016
Russian protest artist held in Moscow psychiatric hospital
In 2014, Pavlensky cut off part of his earlobe while sitting naked on the roof of the Serbsky Center as a protest against “returning to the use of psychiatry for political goals”
Pyotr Pavlensky, the Russian performance artist famous for nailing his scrotum to Moscow’s Red Square, has been transferred to Russia’s infamous psychiatric hospital, the Serbsky Center. Known in the Soviet era for incarcerating political dissidents and diagnosing them as insane, the Serbsky might host hearings in a criminal trial against Pavlensky, who was arrested in November 2015 for setting fire to the main door of the former KGB building on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square, starting 1 February.

In 2014, Pavlensky cut off part of his earlobe while sitting naked on the roof of the Serbsky Center as a protest against “returning to the use of psychiatry for political goals”. In excerpts of an undated interview posted on YouTube on Thursday, Pavlensky said that “psychiatry produces madness” and that prisoners are categorised as “violent” if they “express an interest in what might happen to them” or “express some kind of opinion”.

Authorities have tried to avoid a public trial after Pavlensky asked during an initial court hearing to be charged with terrorism rather than vandalism in the KGB building fire case. The artist is also being tried in absentia for setting fire to tyres on St Petersburg’s Tripartite Bridge in February 2014, as part of a performance called Freedom that showed support for Ukraine’s Maidan revolution.

Pavlensky’s partner Oksana Shalygina posted to Facebook on 26 January that she had heard from the mother of one of his prison cellmates that Pavlensky would be transferred to the hospital for a court-ordered mental health evaluation. She confirmed on Facebook that he was at the Serbsky Center after several days of confusion over whereabouts, posting a photograph of a hospital form signed by Pavlensky confirming that he had received a care package.

On 27 January, Pavlensky’s lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, said on Dozhd television that neither relatives nor lawyers were allowed to visit Pavlensky at the hospital due to a quarantine. He added that the judge in the case had told the lawyers the February hearing might be postponed in case of a quarantine.

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