Soviet dissident is arrested for calling Gorbachev 'fascist'

September 23, 1990|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,Moscow Bureau of The Sun

MOSCOW -- A longtime Soviet dissident is being held in a Moscow psychiatric hospital after being arrested for carrying a sign at a rally a week ago calling President Mikhail S. Gorbachev a "fascist."

Valeriya Novodvorskaya, 40, was charged with violating a new and controversial law defending the "honor and dignity" of the Soviet president, the Tass news agency reported yesterday.

Viktor Kuzin, an attorney and member of the Moscow City Council, said last night that Ms. Novodvorskaya was first taken to Kashchenko Psychiatric Hospital in Moscow for a psychiatric examination. She was subsequently transferred to the Serbsky Institute, infamous for past incarceration of dissidents, where she is in the fifth day of a hunger strike, Mr. Kuzin said.

He said the charges were made by the Moscow prosecutor's office.

"There is no question that she is sane," Mr. Kuzin said. He said doctors at the Kashchenko Psychiatric Hospital had confirmed to him that she was not ill.

Apparently no one has yet been convicted of violating the law defending the president, passed after demonstrators in Red Square jeered Mr. Gorbachev and other leaders on May 1. Violators may be jailed for up to three years, six years if they insult the president through the news media, as Ms. Novodvorskaya is charged with doing.

Ms. Novodvorskaya is a leader of the Democratic Union, an opposition political party that has repeatedly challenged Soviet authorities.

She was first arrested in 1969 for distributing leaflets critical of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia the previous year.

She was convicted of anti-Soviet propaganda and sent to a psychiatric hospital, where many dissidents were incarcerated at that time. Since then, she has several times been hospitalized for "schizophrenia," but Mr. Kuzin said she was never ill.

Her writings and speeches have frequently targeted Mr. Gorbachev.

She has repeatedly ridiculed the law protecting the president, which even Mr. Gorbachev's allies privately admit to have been a mistake. On one trip to Siberia last summer, Ms. Novodvorskaya visited the local office of the KGB security police and gave officers a list of the times and places she intended to violate the presidential protection law.

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