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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Free At Last!

Bloomberg reports that Larisa Arap (pictured) has finally received her freedom; in the hot glow of world outrage, it took more than one month. Can you imagine how long it would have taken if nobody had noticed? Remember how Jack Nicholsen got "free" of solitary confinement in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"?

A Russian journalist won release after 46 days of forcible confinement in a psychiatric hospital, a case human rights groups likened to the Soviet-era practice of locking up dissidents in clinics.

Larisa Arap, 48, who had written an article on maltreatment of children at a mental clinic in the northern city of Apatity, was hospitalized against her will on July 5. Doctors at the clinic released her today after intervention by Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin, his spokeswoman Natalya Mirza said by telephone. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists had written to Putin asking him to secure Arap's release. "The horrifying method of forcible psychiatric detention as punishment for dissent was a trademark of the Soviet past and has no place in a new, democratic Russia,'' it said in the letter.

President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB colonel who was elected in 2000, has tightened control of political life in Russia, squeezing opposition parties out of parliament and eliminating most independent media. Arap, who belongs to an opposition movement led by former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, was taken away in an ambulance after visiting a doctor for a routine health check needed to extend her driving-license, said Marina Litvinovich, a spokeswoman for Kasparov. Hospitalized in the northern port city of Murmansk, she was injected with drugs that weakened her, caused her tongue to swell, blurred her vision and affected her balance, CPJ said, citing her family.

On July 26, the authorities transferred Arap to the clinic in Apatity, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Murmansk, the place she had described in her article, the media freedom watchdog said. Lukin's spokeswoman Mirza said that an independent psychiatric commission appointed by the human rights official to investigate Arap's case had recommended her release.

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