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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 August 2007, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Psychiatric abuse claim in Russia
Larissa Arap in hospital
Larissa Arap says she has been mistreated (Pic: The Other Russia)
Russia's official human rights investigator says it will investigate allegations of psychiatric abuse against an opposition activist.

Larissa Arap says she is being forcibly held in a psychiatric clinic because she criticised health officials.

The ombudsman has been asked to intervene by the United Civil Front (UCF) opposition group, of which Ms Arap is a member.

The Russian government has not commented on Ms Arap's situation.

A spokeswoman for the Russian human rights ombudsman told Reuters agency an independent psychiatric commission would be sent to examine Ms Arap at the hospital where she is being kept.

UCF says Ms Arap's detention is politically-motivated and reminiscent of Soviet practices.

A psychiatric clinic in the north-western city of Murmansk has confirmed it has a patient under the name of Larissa Arap, but has refused to discuss the case.

Government crackdown

Ms Arap told the Western media and fellow activists she was being forcibly held at the clinic.

She claimed to have been injected with drugs against her will.

The French newspaper Liberation quotes Ms Arap as saying: "They beat me over my legs. They force me to take medicine. I am counting on your help".

Garry Kasparov arrested in Moscow
Opposition leader Garry Kasparov has complained of harassment

Ms Arap gave an interview to the UCF newspaper in June in which she claimed that the psychiatric internment - a widespread practice during the Soviet Union - was making a comeback.

The BBC Russian affairs analyst, Steven Eke, says there have been rare reports of the alleged abuse of psychiatry for political purposes.

None have been confirmed independently, he says.

UCI is part of a larger coalition, The Other Russia, headed by former chess world champion, Garry Kasparov.

Earlier this year, Moscow police intervened at a protest rally organised by The Other Russia, arresting Mr Kasparov for a few hours and fining him for public order offences.

Opinion polls have shown limited support for opposition groups like The Other Russia, and high levels of confidence in President Vladimir Putin and his government.


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