Daily Archives: August 23, 2007

Arap Speaks

The Independent Reports:

Larisa Arap has just emerged from a 46-day imprisonment in two Russian psychiatric hospitals. Pills were forced down her throat and she received injection after injection. She doesn’t know what medications they were, or whether they will cause permanent damage.

“I don’t feel very well, but I have a fighting spirit,” Mrs Arap said yesterday, adding that sometimes she was so drugged she could barely walk or speak

She was forcibly interned, not for health reasons, but over her association with the opposition group led by former chess star Garry Kasparov, the United Civil Front. Her arrest stemmed from the publication of an article entitled “Madhouse,” exposing the ghoulish practices of a Russian psychiatric hospital in the Murmansk edition of his organisation’s newspaper, Dissenters’ March.

She was interned in the very hospital she had written about. “We’re ready to take this to court, although the medics have made it clear that we’ll lose,” she said.

Russian activists say her ordeal confirms what they’ve argued for years: punitive psychiatry did not end with the Soviet Union. Now, critics suggest, if someone has a grudge – a husband, a business partner, even a psychiatrist – it isn’t difficult to get them confined to a padded room.

In recent years, Mrs Arap had been looking after the child of her daughter, Taisiya, in her home town of Murmansk, north of the Arctic Circle. Problems first arose in 2003, when she uncovered corruption in her local housing association, as she reported in “Madhouse.” She was then attacked in her building, mystery callers threatened to murder her, and finally she was warned by the FSB, the KGB’s successor, to keep quiet. She didn’t.

Taken to a mental ward, Mrs Arap noted that many of its occupants seemed perfectly sane. “I was surprised that among them were lots of normal people,” she wrote in “Madhouse”. “But how they [staff] communicated with them: They shouted, they beat them up, they put them on drips, after which people became like zombies, they raped them, carried them off in the night and returned them in the morning, tormented.”

One woman was threatened with the removal of organs, Mrs Arap said. Children were told that if they didn’t give massages to medics they’d receive electro-shock therapy.

Mrs Arap was freed, but on 5 July, she was restrained at a clinic after stopping for documentation needed to obtain a drivers’ license. Her doctor asked if she had written “Madhouse,” and when she confirmed, police escorted her to a Murmansk mental hospital. Taisiya said that when she was first arrested, Mrs Arap was beaten, and went on a 5-day hunger strike in protest, consuming nothing but water and smoking cigarettes. It was only on 18 July that a court sanctioned her hospitalisation; until then, she had been detained illegally. Mrs Arap was moved to a hospital near Apatity, 180 miles from Murmansk, “without her agreement or the agreement of her relatives,” Taisiya said.

It was “a closed hospital from which people rarely return. … No positive feelings arise in this hospital. It’s a psychological hospital for the difficult, the dangerous, the abandoned.” Mrs Arap was eventually released when a commission, initiated by Russia’s human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, said there was no reason for her to be hospitalised. She is due in court today to protest her treatment, and the United Civil Front plans to prosecute everyone involved, although a representative admitted the group has little chance of winning. “We were never told anything concrete about why she was locked up,” Taisiya said. “The most frightening thing of all is that the law gives a lot of power to psychiatrists and doctors to do what they want.”

UPDATE: Some malignant little Russophile troll, illiterate and hence unable to read our comment publication rules, has claimed that the world’s newspapers have not noticed Arap and that this proves the world doesn’t care about her. Just to help him look even more ridiculous, we offer the following additional links from major English language publications around the world. Undoubtedly, there are many in other languages as well.

America Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, New York Times

Great Britain – The BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph

Australia The Age

FranceThe International Herald Tribune

Russia – The Barents Observer

Annals of the Neo-Soviet Crackdown on NGOs

The Independent reports:

At least 600 Russian NGOs, defending everything from consumers’ to Communists’ rights, have been deregistered for failing to comply with cumbersome new rules, a Russian media monitoring group said. The NGOs are, in effect, crippled, unable to open bank accounts or new offices. The Voronezh-based Interregional Group of Human Rights Defenders added that in some cases, the deregistering appeared to be politically motivated.

Critics of the NGO registration law, which came into effect in April 2006 and requires NGOs to file lengthy annual reports, have lambasted it as an excuse to clamp down on Russia’s nascent civil society. Opponents of the government can be deregistered over technicalities, they say. The government, however, argues that many NGOs are fronts for criminals or terrorists and need to be vetted. “There’s an opinion among the country’s leadership that the revolutions that happened in Ukraine and Georgia were begun by NGOs,” said the report’s author, Olga Gnezdilova, referring to pro-democracy uprisings in the former Soviet nations.

In October, 77 NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, were temporarily forced to suspend activities after missing a registration deadline. Ella Pamfilova, a top adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, later admitted that the new law was suffocating NGOs. This year, only 216,000 of around 500,000 Russian NGOs were able to meet the registration deadline, the Kommersant business daily reported on Monday. The remainder can be taken to court and stripped of their registration. The new report, which collates media reports from eight regions, says that NGOs are being declared inactive by courts though some claim they filed all the necessary documents.

Annals of the Neo-Soviet Crackdown on Bloggers

Republishing from BBC Monitoring, Red Orbit offers the following translation of a Russian TV broadcast about the neo-Soviet blog crackdown:

Text of “24” news report by Russian Ren TV on 22 August

[Presenter] No gossiping on Zhivoy Zhurnal [Live Journal]. Russian justice has extended its reach to the world wide web. Several people have come under close police scrutiny for their statements on the Internet. In Perm, the Internet user Dmitriy Shirinkin [as received] could end up in the dock for a prose essay full of hatred of everything from the authorities to the TV show Dom- 2 [Russian version of Big Brother].

Meanwhile, a blogger from Syktyvkar, Savva Terentyev, has been careless in his description of the men in epaulets. Nina Davlidzyanova [as received] has more.

[Correspondent] The musician Savva Terentyev had planned to spend his summer on tour, but he has been forced to spend his holiday in his home city Syktyvkar, under orders not to leave the city. It could all have been different if on one fateful evening, a policeman had not decided to take a look at information freely circulating on the net, as it says in the case.

[Savva Terentyev] He sometimes read the blog of Boris Suranov [in whose blog Terentyev posted his comments] at state expense, although there’s no ban on that. Found it, read it, took offence.

[Correspondent] Savva described the police officers with scathing expressions, accusing them of corruption.

[Anton Nosik, captioned as manager of an Internet blog] The people who launched the criminal case are trying in this way to portray police-turned-crooks as a social group that enjoys protection from Russian legislation. It seems to me that it ought be us who are protected by the law, not crooks.

[Correspondent] Most Internet users justify Terentyev, and say the constitution gives everyone the right to their own opinion, which can be expressed in both blogs and letters to the editor. The prosecutor’s office in the Republic of Komi believes differently. There, they say the musician could face up to four years in prison under the [Russian Criminal Code] article on inciting hatred or enmity as well as abasing human dignity.

[Eduard Guskov, captioned as head of the investigations directorate of the Republic of Komi prosecutor’s office] First, we are sure that Terentyev’s actions constitute a crime. We believe that whichever lawyer comes, it won’t prevent a lawful verdict in this case.

[Correspondent] The first court hearing of the Terentyev case is set for September. There are some who believe that is a good sign. At last, legal rights are reaching the Internet.

[Sergey Lukyanenko, captioned as writer] Freedom should not be confused with permissiveness. Blogs, in essence, are mass media on the Internet. Correspondingly, they are subject to the same laws as printed publications.

[Correspondent] In August this year alone, two sentences were passed for inciting hatred on the Internet – in Novosibirsk and Krasnodar. One culprit got away with a R130,000 fine [slightly over 5,000 dollars at the current exchange rate]. The other was given a 1.5-year suspended sentence. But it is still too early to speak of a trend, say analysts – at least while such cases are still a rarity in Moscow.

Crazed Russia Once Again Menaces UK with Nuclear Attack

The BBC reports that Russia has once again menaced it with nuclear attack in the manner of a crude thug, a rogue nation like Iran:

Two new RAF Typhoon jets shadowed a Russian bomber heading for Britain, the Ministry of Defence has said. The jets were scrambled on Friday 17 August to identify the Russian aircraft, which turned back before it reached UK skies. The MoD said: “RAF Typhoons from Numbers 3(F) and XI Squadrons launched to shadow a Russian Bear-H aircraft over the North Atlantic Ocean.” The BBC’s Gordon Corera said the incident was not a security threat. He said a similar incident occurred in July, but that this represented a new, more provocative Russian foreign policy. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has recently resumed the Soviet-era practice of sending bomber aircraft on long-range flights.

Oops! They did it AGAIN! Russia Keeps Right on Violating Georgian Airspace

The BBC reports:

Georgia has accused Russia of violating Georgian airspace for the second time in a month. The foreign ministry in Tbilisi said a Russian fighter jet flew 5km (3 miles) into Georgian territory on Tuesday. Moscow immediately denied the claim, saying Russian planes did not fly near the Georgian border on that day. Earlier this month, Georgia said a Russian plane had dropped a missile on Georgian territory, an accusation strongly denied by Russia. On Wednesday, Georgia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the Russian jet had crossed into the north-west of Georgia. It said the incursion had been tracked by the Georgian air defence system. Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been strained since a spy row last year.