A Russian court Tuesday ordered that an activist be committed to a mental hospital after being convicted for his role in a protest against Vladimir Putin, a move that has raised charges of reviving Soviet-era punitive methods.In its verdict, a Moscow court found the activist Mikhail Kosenko, who suffers from a mild form of schizophrenia, guilty of participating in an anti-Putin mass protest and using violence against police.
The judge however ruled that due to his illness Kosenko was mentally incompetent and must be admitted to a high-security facility indefinitely.
"The court ruled that Kosenko undergo compulsory medical treatment," his lawyer Valery Shukhardin told AFP.
Diagnosed with "sluggish schizophrenia" -- a term for mild mental illness used in Russia -- Kosenko had been treated on an outpatient basis before his pre-trial detention.
His defence insists that he should not be hospitalised and continue treatment as an outpatient. But a psychiatric report submitted to the court said his schizophrenia was so serious he needed to be committed.
"A conclusion by expert psychiatrists says that he is a danger to society and therefore should be isolated in a psychiatric facility," said Shukhardin.
"It's unclear to us where these conclusions come from. They are not justified by anything except the charges laid against him."
Kosenko was one of a dozen activists accused of mass disorder when a peaceful opposition protest suddenly descended into violence on May 6 last year, on the eve of Putin's inauguration to a third presidential term.
A group of Kosenko's supporters gathered outside the Moscow court, some holding white flowers that symbolise the opposition movement against Putin, shouting "Shame!"
Kosenko had denied the charges, insisting he did not attack a policeman but simply pushed him away.
Shukhardin said that the court ruling could see him spend several years in a psychiatric ward.
Veteran human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva, who has monitored the trial, called the ruling "a resumption of the psychiatric persecutions for dissent that were practised in the Soviet Union."
"Now they have started it again....Butchers," she told AFP.
The Soviet Union regularly diagnosed political dissidents with mental illnesses and incarcerated them in psychiatric hospitals for years on end.
Kosenko has been held in pre-trial detention since June last year. When his mother died recently he was not allowed to attend her funeral.
Kosenko's lawyer said his health had deteriorated over the past month because he had not been issued with the correct medication.
The opposition has maintained that the scuffles with police at the May 2012 rally in Moscow came as a result of a provocation and that the Kremlin is persecuting innocent people.
Authorities, however, have said protesters deliberately attacked police and vowed that attacks against law-enforcement agencies will not be tolerated.
Rights activists say the trial is part of a tough crackdown on the opposition after unprecedented protests against Putin's 13-year rule.