MOSCOW/LONDON, Oct 6 (Reuters) Russian police briefly detained five foreign citizens who had planned to attend a human rights forum today to commemorate the first anniversary of the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Organisers of the forum in Nizhny Novgorod, a city 400 km (250 miles) east of Moscow, said they were forced to cancel a series of meetings after police seized computers from their office and authorities blocked access to their bank account.
Neil Hicks, a British director of New York-based Human Rights First, told Reuters he was detained for four hours along with a German and three Spaniards and fined 3,000 roubles (120 dollars) for a violation of his visa status, a charge he denies.
''We think is it interference in the activities of human rights organisations,'' he said. ''It is unfortunate and shows the problems with basic freedoms are very severe in Russia.'' Another of the detained represented Amnesty International, an event organiser said.
Police in Nizhny Novgorod were not available for comment.
Politkovskaya was shot dead in her apartment building in a contract-style shooting on October. 7 last year.
Separately, a group of prominent activists called for Russia to bring to justice those who instigated the murder of Politkovskaya, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin.
The group Reach All Women in War (RAW in WAR), whose supporters include Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, made the call in a letter to Britain's Times newspaper.
''We call on the Russian government to bring to justice, in full conformity with international standards, both those who killed Anna Politkovskaya and those who ordered her murder,'' the letter said.
''We also call on the world's leaders to pledge to do everything in their power to protect the journalists and human rights defenders who work in the areas of war and conflict, and who speak out on behalf of the victims, as Anna did.'' ARRESTS Among those who signed today's letter were Elena Bonner, widow of the late Soviet dissident and Nobel laureate Andrei Sakharov, former Czech president Vaclav Havel, and Marina Litvinenko, whose husband Alexander died in London last year after being poisoned with radioactive polonium-210.
Russian authorities have arrested 11 people over Politkovskaya's death. Prosecutors last month charged a former government official from the volatile region of Chechnya, Shamil Burayev, as an accomplice to the murder.
Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper, citing unnamed law enforcement sources, reported in its Saturday edition that a Ukrainian crime boss had also been arrested in connection with the killing.
Prosecutors, who link the murder to her reporting, have said they suspect she was murdered by an organised crime group involving serving and former law enforcement officers.
Politkovskaya was active in exposing abuses by security forces in Chechnya and neighbouring Russian regions.
The Nizhny Novgorod edition of the publication for which she worked, Novaya Gazeta, was one of the organisers of the planned forum in the city.
Oksana Chelysheva of the group Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Promote Tolerance, the other organiser, said reservations made for visitors in local hotels were cancelled without good reason.
''The authorities organised unprecedented surveillance. It was very difficult for us to accommodate people,'' she said.
REUTERS PY RK2145