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Italian gay activist briefly detained in Sochi

By: Associated Press
February 17, 2014 Updated: February 17, 2014 at 5:04 am
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photo - FILE - In this Dec. 6, 2008 file photo, Vladimir Luxuria, a former Communist lawmaker in the Italian parliament and prominent crusader for  transgender rights, mimics a hanging outside St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in Rome during a candlelight demonstration for gay rights. Luxuria said on her website and Twitter feed that she was detained by Russian police late Sunday night, Feb. 16, 2014, when she held up a gay rights banner near the Winter Olympic park in the Russian city of Sochi. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 6, 2008 file photo, Vladimir Luxuria, a former Communist lawmaker in the Italian parliament and prominent crusader for transgender rights, mimics a hanging outside St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in Rome during a candlelight demonstration for gay rights. Luxuria said on her website and Twitter feed that she was detained by Russian police late Sunday night, Feb. 16, 2014, when she held up a gay rights banner near the Winter Olympic park in the Russian city of Sochi. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File) 

SOCHI, Russia — An Italian gay-rights activist says she was detained by police in the Olympic host city after being stopped while carrying a rainbow flag saying "Gay is OK" in Russian.

Vladimir Luxuria, a former Communist lawmaker in the Italian parliament who has become a prominent transgender rights crusader, said on her website and Twitter feed that she was held for several hours Sunday before being released. It was not known if she was charged with any offense.

Her website published a photograph of her after her release. Before her arrest, she tweeted: "I'm in Sochi. Greetings in the colors of the rainbow, in Putin's face."

Sochi police would not comment.

Sochi organizers said Monday they had no information of any such incident.

"We've talked to police and they have told us there is no record whatsoever to any detention or arrest," Sochi organizing committee spokeswoman Alexandra Kosterina said.

A duty officer at the central police station in Sochi told The Associated Press that they have never had an Italian national in custody.

Protesters are routinely arrested at unauthorized rallies in Moscow. Quite often officers at the police station are so overwhelmed with paperwork that they keep some of them at the station for hours and let them go hours later without registering the detention or giving the detained person any document explaining it.

Andrei Tanichev, owner of Sochi's main gay club Mayak, said Monday that Luxuria was there Sunday night.

"He was enjoying himself and even took part in the (drag) show," Tanichev said.

Tanichev said Luxuria left on her own and he has no knowledge of the detention.

"We hope that the games, and I'm sure that the games will not be used as a platform for any demonstration and I hope it stays that way," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.

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