Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Russian activist says held in psychiatric clinic

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian opposition activist told Reuters on Tuesday from inside a psychiatric hospital that she was being held there against her will because she had blown the whistle on abuse in mental health care.

Larisa Arap of the anti-Kremlin group United Civil Front and her colleagues say she is a victim of a local vendetta by healthcare workers after she gave an account to a newspaper alleging patients at another psychiatric unit in the same region were beaten and raped.

The full details of the case are not known, but Arap's detention has caused an outcry among Kremlin opponents who say it echoes the Soviet practice of confining political dissidents in mental institutions to keep them quiet.

Sounding exhausted but coherent, Arap spoke to Reuters on a mobile telephone from the psychiatric ward near the city of Murmansk, on the edge of the Arctic Circle, where she has been since July 5.

She said her problems began when she went to see a doctor to get a certificate testifying she was in sound mental health -- a standard requirement in Russia for renewing a driver's license.

"She (the doctor) called the police. They kept me by force, then an ambulance was called, they bundled me in there and brought me here where I was beaten," Arap said on the telephone she had borrowed from a visitor.

"I feel unwell but I am trying to hold out. But my strength is dying away," Arap said.

Yelena Vasilyeva, a fellow opposition activist who has visited Arap in hospital, said doctors had forcibly injected Arap with drugs. 


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