Larisa Arap Hunger Strike Continues

Larisa Arap continues to be kept in the closed section of the Apatity hospital where she was moved last week instead of being moved to the open care area. Therefore she has continued a hunger strike against her detention. Two days ago the deputy chief medical officer said Larisa Arap was not a danger to herself or others and would be transferred by August 7th, but this has not happened. This second hunger strike has gone on since Larisa was moved to Apatity from the clinic in Murmansk where she was originally abducted on July 5 when she went there for a routine medical form required to renew her driver’s license.

The case continues to receive broad coverage in the foreign press but the Russian health and political hierarchy continues to support the illegal detention of Larisa Arap. From an Aug 7 Chicago Tribune article:

Larisa Arap crossed a line with Murmansk authorities when she co-wrote an article called “Madhouse” that appeared in a Kasparov movement newspaper, alleging the mistreatment of children and the use of electro-shock therapy at area psychiatric clinics. She claimed she observed those abuses during a monthlong stay at the clinic in 2004, in which she received treatment for stress.

On July 5, Arap appeared at Dr. Marina Rekish’s office to pick up a medical certificate needed to renew her driver’s license. Russian driver’s license renewals require annual certificates from a doctor and a psychiatrist stating that the applicant is physically and mentally capable of driving.

Last year, Rekish issued Arap the certificate without hesitation, says Elena Vasilyeva, head of the Murmansk branch of Kasparov’s pro-democratic movement called Other Russia. This time, however, Rekish had a question as Arap sat in her office. “She asked, ‘Are you the author of that article?'” Vasilyeva said, relating what Arap told her.

When Arap replied “Yes,” Rekish asked her to wait outside. Moments later police dressed in camouflage arrived and hauled Arap away, holding her arms crossed behind her back as they walked her to an ambulance.

When Vasilyeva and Arap’s husband and daughter arrived at the psychiatric clinic in nearby Severomorsk to see her, the 49-year-old political activist couldn’t walk or speak. Her eyes were swollen and barely open. She had just spent 24 hours strapped to a gurney, unable to move as nurses pumped heavy sedatives into her, Vasilyeva says.

The family has been told that Arap is being held because she poses a danger to others, an assessment made by Rekish and accepted by a judge during a hearing July 18.

Rekish did not respond to a request for an interview.

Transfer to Apatity

Arap is now being held at a mental asylum in Apatity, 93 miles south of Murmansk. Vasilyeva and Arap’s husband met with the asylum’s chief doctor July 31.

“The first thing he said was, ‘Aren’t you afraid of publishing this kind of article?'” Vasilyeva said. “I looked into his eyes and said, ‘You have the right to sue us if you don’t like the article, but right now we’re talking about why Larisa is in an asylum,'” Vasilyeva said. “He made it clear the reason for her being at the asylum was the article.”

Vasilyeva and Arap’s relatives last saw her July 31 at the Apatity clinic. She appeared underweight and groggy.

“She ran to us and cried bitterly,” Taisiya Arap said. “She told me she’s dying in there.”