Activist sent to mental clinic: Russian opposition

Tuesday July 31, 01:13 AM

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A member of a Russian opposition group has been hospitalized in a psychiatric facility “out of revenge” for criticizing a clinic’s use of violence against mentally ill patients, her colleague said on Monday.

Yelena Vasilyeva, who heads a regional branch of the United Civil Front, said Larisa Arap had told her on the telephone that police had pushed her into an ambulance on July 5 and taken her to the hospital in Russia’s Murmansk region near Finland.

She said Arap was forcefully injected with drugs.

“It was out of revenge that Larisa was hospitalized,” Vasilyeva told Reuters in an e-mail.

Police were not available for comment. The clinic where Vasilyeva said Arap was kept confirmed they have a patient under that name.

Arap’s doctor said she could not discuss the details of her illness over the telephone and told Reuters to call the clinic’s chief doctor. The chief doctor was out of the office on Monday.

The United Civil Front activists, led by world chess champion Garry Kasparov, are vocal Kremlin opponents who accuse President Vladimir Putin of destroying democracy.

They say civil society, human rights and the rule of law had all suffered greatly under the Russian leader.

A local opposition newspaper in June published an article based on Arap’s comments. It said patients at a clinic in the Murmansk region were beaten and raped.

When Arap returned to her doctor after an examination to pick up medical documents showing she was in good mental health to renew a driver’s license, the doctor asked her whether she was the article’s author and called the police, Vasilyeva said.

“In Stalin’s times and in Brezhnev’s times, psychiatric hospitals were additional prisons for dissenters,” Vasilyeva said referring to Soviet leaders Josef Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev. “I do not think we want a return to those shameful pages of history.”

Leaders of the United Civil Front are preparing a letter addressed to Russia’s rights ombudsman demanding immediate interference with Arap’s case, Vasilyeva said.

NZ Herald printed a different version of this story in hard copy but not online! And attributed the story to the Telegraph Group.

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Clare Swinney

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