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Friday, February 08, 2008

Annals of Weaponizing Psychiatry: Another one Bites the Dust

The Moscow Times reports:

An opposition activist has been locked up in a psychiatric hospital in the Tver region, two colleagues and a hospital official said Monday.

Roman Nikolaichik, 27, a lawyer and member of Garry Kasparov's Other Russia coalition, was detained in Tver on Friday, questioned about his political activities and subsequently taken to a psychiatric hospital, where he remained Monday, said Maxim Novikov, head of the coalition's branch in Tver.

The account was confirmed by Yevgeny Svetovidov, a spokesman for a monarchist movement, ARES, of which Nikolaichik is a member. A woman who answered the telephone at Litvinov Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 in the Tver region town of Busharevo said Nikolaichik was being held in an isolation ward. She refused to connect him with a reporter but confirmed that he had been admitted Friday.

Nikolaichik's detention echoes similar cases over the past year that human rights organizations have criticized as a step toward Soviet-era repression tactics. In December, human rights groups said Andrei Novikov, a reporter for a news service connected to the Chechen separatist government, had been released after nine months in a psychiatric hospital. Last summer, Larisa Arap, an Other Russia activist and journalist, spent six weeks in a psychiatric clinic.

Which law enforcement agency questioned Nikolaichik and sent him to the hospital was unclear Monday. Novikov and Svetovidov said Tver region prosecutors tried to charge Nikolaichik with attempted murder while questioning him on Monday. Svetovidov, citing Nikolaichik's relatives, said that after questioning, a doctor declared the activist mentally unstable and ordered him to undergo treatment. Prosecutors denied questioning Nikolaichik or sending him to the hospital. "If there was a murder case against him, we would know about it," said Galina Malyuta, a spokeswoman for the Tver region prosecutor's office. Calls to Nikolaichik's cell phone went unanswered.

Nikolaichik was a regular participant in the so-called Dissenters' Marches, the Other Russia rallies that have often been broken up by baton-wielding police. Svetovidov said Nikolaichik had been targeted because he appeared on a list of Other Russia candidates for December's State Duma elections. He said law enforcement officials had been pressuring him to leave the group since September. Nikolaichik has a wife and three children, Novikov said. They could not be located for comment Monday.

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