St Petersburg pensioner in laundry rights battle

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The Independent Online

The right to dry one's laundry in private is not usually described as a fundamental human right, but a Russian pensioner has succeeded in getting the European Court of Human Rights to consider it.

Until seven years ago Lydia Tumasova and her neighbours used to dry their washing in the 150sq metre attic of their apartment building in central St Petersburg .

But in 1997 the owners of the top-floor apartment decided to convert the communal attic into an exclusive flat, without consulting the other residents.

Ms Tumasova, 72, formed a protest group and the authorities in St Petersburg initially sided with her. Later, however, they changed the law to allow flat owners to go ahead with attic conversions without the consent of other residents.

After having the case heard in 27 Russian courts, Ms Tumasova has taken her complaint to the Strasbourg court. A spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that it had agreed to consider the case. "We have received her application and we are therefore obliged to consider it," she said.

Ms Tumasova is thought to be alleging that her right to respect for her private and family life (article 8) has been breached, along with her right to an effective remedy (article 13). The Russian media is portraying the battle as a David versus Goliath struggle.

Ms Tumasova says she is determined not to give up: "We have a damp climate here so ordinary people need somewhere to dry their laundry."