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Journalist and opposition activist forcibly confined in psychiatric hospital

(CJES/IFEX) - Larisa Arap, a member of the opposition movement United Civil Front, has been forcibly hospitalized in a Murmansk psychiatric clinic.

Yelena Vasilyeva, the head of the movement's Murmansk division, told CJES Arap's hospitalization occurred following the publication of her article on the city's psychiatric clinics in a special edition of the movement's newspaper. In her article, Arap addressed the issue of violence used by medical staff in the treatment of mental patients in the regional psychiatric hospital.

"On July 5 [2007], Larisa went to the clinic to get some papers she needed. A month before, she had undergone a medical examination to re-register her driving license. When she entered the psychiatrist's office and gave her name, she was surprised by the reaction of doctor Olga Reshet, who asked her whether she was the journalist who had written the article on the clinic. Larisa said she was indeed that journalist. The doctor then called for the police and an ambulance. Larisa had her hands bound and was taken to the Murmansk psychiatric hospital. When her husband and daughter came to the clinic, the doctor on duty threw a copy of the newspaper containing Larisa's publication in their faces. He began yelling at them that no one has a right to write on what is going on in the hospital [. . .]," Vasilyeva told CJES.

Vasilyeva also said that Arap's relatives had filed a written request for information regarding the journalist's diagnosis, to which the doctors responded that they would not disclose that information as it constituted a medical secret, although by law close relatives have a right to be informed of the diagnosis in such cases. Moreover, the doctors were required to notify the journalist's relatives of her forcible hospitalization within 24 hours, but only did so on 24 July.

"Patients can only be forcibly treated under a court ruling. But the trial was only held on July 18," said Vasilyeva.

Vasilyeva and Arap's relatives believe that the hospital administration is punishing the journalist for her article. "On the other and, we do no rule out [the possibility] that the doctors received instructions from the political department of the Federal Security Service, which was created on April 7 to combat opposition movements, and Larisa Arap is an active member of an opposition movement," said Vasilyeva.

Vasilyeva also said United Civil Front leader Garry Kasparov is currently preparing to send urgent appeals to Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and presidential human rights adviser Ella Panfilova to intervene in the situation.

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