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Human rights envoy wants opposition activist out of mental ward

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MOSCOW, August 14 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's human rights commissioner called Tuesday for an opposition activist detained in a psychiatric clinic to be discharged, citing the "politicized situation," but said the patient should continue to receive treatment.

The United Civic Front (UCF), a movement led by chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov that vehemently opposes President Vladimir Putin, claims the group member was put in the clinic in Russia's Murmansk Region to silence her, after she publicly criticized practices in children's mental health wards.

Vladimir Lukin, the presidential envoy for human rights, told a news conference in Moscow: "The sooner we have her transferred from in-ward to out-patient treatment, the better it will be in every respect, as a politicized situation has arisen around this case."

Larisa Arap, an activist of the group's branch in Murmansk, in Russia's Arctic, was detained in a regional psychiatric ward for treatment on July 5, after coming to the clinic to obtain a medical certificate needed for her driving license.

Arap had earlier published an article in a local newspaper describing how children were being subjected to electroshock therapy in a regional mental home.

Lukin said the results of Arap's examination, conducted by a special commission on his request and headed by Yury Savenko, the president of Russia's Independent Psychiatric Association, showed there were not sufficient grounds to detain the activist in the ward.

However, Savenko told the news conference that doctors still considered the patient to be mentally ill. "This is a case of a genuinely ill person, who asked for psychiatric assistance in 2004," he said.

Savenko said the issue under consideration was not the doctors' diagnosis, but whether there were sufficient grounds for Arap's forcible confinement in the mental ward.

Lukin said two courts have already ruled that Arap should be subjected to compulsory in-ward treatment, and stressed that he was not authorized to overrule the courts. However, he said he hoped the consensus of medical experts sent to Murmansk on his request would be taken into account.

"I call on my colleagues, who work there [in Murmansk] to take these factors into account," he said.

Yury Savenko said in turn that the commission of doctors which he took to Murmansk had quickly concurred with local doctors on the diagnosis of Arap as mentally ill, but concluded that she posed no danger to the public.

He added that he personally saw no grounds for detaining Arap, as she was "no danger either to herself or to others."

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