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Member of Garry Kasparov's opposition group released from psychiatric clinic

A member of Garry Kasparov's opposition group was released Monday from a psychiatric clinic where she was held against her will for 46 days.

Larisa Arap, 48, a member of Kasparov's group in the northern port city of Murmansk, was forcibly hospitalized last month in what opposition activists said was revenge for exposing alleged abuse of children in a local psychiatric hospital.

Her case was taken up by human rights defenders, who saw in it echoes of the Soviet-era practice of locking up dissidents in psychiatric hospitals.

Arap was released Monday from a psychiatric hospital in Apatit, a city 300 kilometers (180 miles) from Murmansk, and was picked up by her husband, said Marina Litvinovich, a spokeswoman for Kasparov's United Civil Front. Arap had been moved to the hospital farther from her home in late July.

Arap's release came after a commission, sent by human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to look into her case, said it found no reason for her forced hospitalization.

Her family had appealed her detention in court, but the request for her release was denied.

The Interfax news agency cited an unidentified hospital staff member as saying that Arap would continue treatment as an outpatient. The employee said she was hospitalized in accordance with legislation that calls for punishing medical personnel who fail to adequately treat a person who is harmed as a result of that neglect, Interfax reported. The employee did not give details about why Arap needed treatment.

Arap was bundled into an ambulance on July 5 after visiting a doctor to secure documents attesting to her mental health as required by Russian law in order to receive a new driver's license.

When the doctor realized she was the one who had criticized conditions at the psychiatric hospital in an article published in an opposition newspaper, the doctor called the police, according to her daughter, Taisiya Arap.

Other members of Kasparov's group, including Kasparov, have been detained by the police, but Litvinovich said Arap was the first to be held in a psychiatric clinic.

But an observer with Kasparov's Web site, Stanislav Yakovlev, called Arap's forcible confinement to a psychiatric facility a trial balloon from Russian authorities and expressed concern they would turn increasingly to the practice as a way to silence opponents and activists.

"Many opposition activists and simply people with normal ... civic thinking are more and more often threatened not with prison but with the psychiatric (hospital)," Yakovlev said in commentary on the Web site.