- Ivan Golunov, a prominent Russian investigative journalist, was released on house arrest Saturday after he was arrested and charged with dealing drugs by Russian authorities.
- Golunov’s lawyer said he believes police planted drugs on the reporter, who is known for his work exposing corruption among Moscow’s political and business elite.
- The Saturday hearing set off protests by fellow journalists and free-speech advocates over concerns Golunov was targeted.
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Ivan Golunov, a prominent Russian investigative journalist, was released on house arrest Saturday after he was arrested and charged with dealing drugs, a move by authorities that alarmed journalists and free-speech advocates.
Authorities stopped and searched 36-year-old Golunov when he was on his way to meet another journalist on Thursday, multiple outlets reported. Officers said they found four grams of the synthetic drug mephedrone in his backpack, and later found more drugs and scales in a search of his apartment, which suggested he was a dealer.
According to the BBC, police initially released photos which they said showed drug paraphernalia in Golunov’s flat, but were later withdrawn. Authorities said "most of the published photos had not been taken at Mr. Golunov’s flat after all, but were related to another criminal investigation that might be linked to his detention."
Dmitry Djulai, Golunov‘s lawyer, told Reuters he believed police had planted the drugs on his client to frame him. He said Golunov had been beaten, and that police had refused to take swabs from his hands or bag or to take fingernail samples to see if he had been in contact with drugs.
In court Saturday, Golunov denied the charges.
"I did not commit a crime, I am ready to cooperate with the investigation, I have nothing to do with the drugs," Golunov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.
Earlier in the day, Golunov had been taken to the hospital after feeling unwell, Reuters reported. Interfax news agency cited an unnamed paramedic as saying he had chest abrasions, bruised ribs, and suspected head injuries.
Meduza, an independent website and Golunov’s employer, said the reporter had received threats in recent months over a story he was working on.
"We are convinced that Ivan Golunov is innocent," the publication said in a statement, according to Reuters. "Moreover, we have grounds to believe that Golunov is being persecuted because of his journalistic activity."
vmestemedia.ru/Handout via REUTERS
Golunov is known for his reports that exposed corruption within Moscow’s political and business elite, unlike the mostly state-controlled media within the country.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 58 journalists have been killed in Russia since 1992, of whom 38 were targeted for murder.
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