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Russian Protesters Decry Psychiatric Pressure On Believers

Larisa Arap before her incarceration (left) and after
Larisa Arap before her incarceration (left) and after
Activists in St. Petersburg have demonstrated to protest against the use of psychiatric pressure to try to change religious beliefs.

The director of the Civic Commission on Human Rights, Roman Chorny, told RFE/RL's Russian Service that there have been cases in St. Petersburg in which family members sent their relatives to psychiatric institutions in an effort to "cure them" of specific religious beliefs.

Chorny said it is extremely worrisome that psychiatrists are given the power to decide which religious beliefs are acceptable and which need to be "cured."

Russia's mental-health institutions have come under harsh criticism from human rights defenders for being used as an instrument of pressure and abuse against various people, including political activists.

In 2007, an opposition activist in Murmansk, Larisa Arap, was institutionalized against her will after she wrote a newspaper story alleging abuses at local psychiatric hospitals.

Human rights advocates warned that the case marked a return to Soviet-era practices, when dissenters were commonly locked away in mental institutions.