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Other Russia candidate held in psychiatrical clinic

A member of Russian oppositional National Bolshevik Party said that his mate was committed to a psychiatric hospital before government protests - the latest in a series of incidents suggesting a punitive Soviet-era practice is being revived.

Alexander Averin said that Artem Basyrov, 20, was detained by two plainclothes officers and ordered held in a hospital in the central region of Mari El on Nov. 23

Basyrov was a Other Russia candidate for the local legislature. National Bolshevik Party is a part of the Other Russia, which organized the so-called "Dissenters Marches" the country.

A local psychiatric board agreed with police that Basyrov could be suffering some mental illness. The man was allowed to have visitors on Thursday, said Mikhail Klyuzhev, a National Bolshevik member from the city of Yoshkar-Ola .

Basyrov was accused by police of assaulting a girl. He’s still in the hospital.

Klyuzhev called the allegations "idiocy."

"It's all part of the hysteria before the elections," he said. Russia held its parliamentary vote Dec. 2, and will hold its presidential contest in March.

Prosecutors and other officials in Mari El could not be immediately reached for comment.

Supporters said Basyrov did not appear to have been mistreated. Another psychiatric board was slated to review Basyrov's case at the end of the month, Klyuzhev said.

His case is the latest example of journalists or opposition activists being involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals. During the Soviet era, dissidents were frequently committed as punishment for protesting Soviet policies.

Last week, Reporters Without Borders said Andrei Novikov, a reporter for a news service connected with Chechen separatist government, had been released after nine months in a psychiatric hospital.

This summer, Larisa Arap, an Other Russia activist and journalist, spent six weeks in a psychiatric clinic; supporters said it was punishment for her critical reporting.

The Global Initiative on Psychiatry, a Dutch watchdog group, says psychiatry continues to be used for punitive, political purposes in Russia.

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