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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Want to Give Journalist Psychiatric Test




When gun-toting police showed up at investigative reporter Alexander Khinshtein's apartment last week with an order to take him to a psychiatric clinic for testing, he got out of it by producing a doctor's note saying he was too sick to go.


Since then, Khinshtein has gone into hiding, and the bizarre case - which hearkens back to Soviet days when dissidents were silenced by being sent to the loony bin - has alarmed his fellow journalists and even drawn the attention of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE.


His lawyer and colleagues at Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper say the case was fabricated to intimidate Khinshtein, who has exposed alleged misdeeds by Kremlin power broker Boris Berezovsky and accused Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo of protecting Berezovsky.


More than 100 of his colleagues and supporters plan to picket the Interior Ministry's headquarters on Ulitsa Zhitnaya on Friday in protest, said MK's political news editor, Yekaterina Deyeva.


The Interior Ministry said it is pursuing the case against Khinshtein. "He will undergo the psychiatric test" sooner or later, said Vladimir Martynov, spokesman for the Interior Ministry's investigative committee.


Khinshtein, 25, hid a record of psychiatric disorders to "illegally" obtain a driver's license in 1997 and has already been charged with the "use of an illegally obtained document," Martynov said.


If tried in court and convicted, Khinshtein could be sentenced to six months in jail or up to two years of correctional labor. A comprehensive test at the psychiatric clinic will help to determine whether Khinshtein was mentally sound enough to have been given a driver's license and whether he is fit enough to be tried in court, Martynov said.


Khinshtein has gone into hiding and could not be reached for comment.


His mother, Inna Regerer, accused investigators of trying to punish her son for his unfavorable coverage of their boss and his attempts to expose corruption.


"This is a fabricated case ... which resembles Stalinist-era repression," Regerer said in a telephone interview this week.


In addition to his reports in MK, Khinshtein hosts an investigative program, "Secret Materials," on TV Tsentr. The popular daily and television channel are allied with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, a bitter Berezovsky foe.


In his MK and TV Tsentr expos?s Khinshtein has blasted the Interior Ministry for failing to crack down on Berezovsky, who he claims has maintained close ties with Chechen separatists. Khinshtein ran excerpts from Berezovsky's alleged telephone negotiations with Chechnya's propaganda guru Movladi Udugov and other Chechen separatists suggesting that Berezovsky was to have transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to these men who are wanted by Russia's security service for terrorism.


Khinshtein also alleged that Berezovsky had a private security company tap conversations of former President Boris Yeltsin's retinue. These tapes were confiscated in a police raid, but Rushailo hushed up the whole case, Khinshtein wrote in one of his MK stories last year.


Martynov said the Interior Ministry is not trying to intimidate Khinshtein into ending his expos?s, but "it doesn't mean we should not determine whether he got his driver's license illegally."


The license was found on Khinshtein when he was stopped by traffic police after running a red light in May. Khinshtein produced several documents, including the identification card of Moscow police Major Alexander Matveyev with Khinshtein's photo. He was briefly detained.


It later turned out that Khinshtein received the ID from the Moscow branch of the State Customs Committee, supposedly so he could work as an agent for them.


The case was not dropped, however, and was transferred from the Moscow police to the Interior Ministry's investigative committee. Khinshtein has accused Rushailo of ordering the fabrication of a case against him.


Last week, investigator Vladimir Gordienko personally tried to take Khinshtein to a clinic in Vladimir and showed up at his apartment Jan. 17 flanked by Kalashnikov-toting police officers. Khinshtein, according to his mother, produced a doctor's note that said he had a sore throat and could not be taken anywhere.


Khinshtein's lawyer Andrei Muratov said Khinshtein will agree only to an interrogation at the Interior Ministry, with his lawyer present.


The OSCE's representative on press freedom, Freimut Duve, sent a letter Monday to Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to protest attempts to prosecute Khinshtein.


According to an OSCE statement, Duve said he "found it extremely difficult to believe ... Mr. Khinshtein needed a psychiatric examination because of ... a driver's license offense ... especially in light of the many threats that Mr. Khinshtein had received regarding his anti-corruption stories."


"Khinshtein should be allowed to his work without hindrance," the letter said.


Russia's respected PEN center also issued a statement saying Khinshtein "has the right to express his opinion freely" and noted that attempts to take him to a clinic could be a "comeback of punishing psychiatry."


Oleg Panfilov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, Russia's chief watchdog of media freedom, said Khinshtein's case "has nothing to do with journalism."


Khinshtein, he said, has fallen victim to the "eternal" battle between the Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service, or FSB.


Panfilov said the tapes of Berezovsky's phone conversations were most likely supplied by the FSB, and the Interior Ministry is simply trying to punish the reporter since Berezovsky is closely allied with Rushailo.