Russian journalist freed after police abruptly drop charges

Larry Hoffman
June 14, 2019

Journalist Ivan Golunov was detained on drug charges last week but says he is being punished for his work as an investigative reporter. He's seen here inside the defendants' cage during a court hearing in Moscow Saturday.

Russian police unexpectedly dropped drug possession charges against veteran investigative journalist Ivan Golunov on Tuesday afternoon following an unprecedented outcry from Russia's cultural elite.

According to Meduza, Golunov was deprived of sleep for two days, and severely beaten during interrogation.

"Today, he will be freed from house arrest, and the charges against him will be cleared", Kolokoltsev statement read.

A further explanation for Golunov's swift release may be that Putin plans to visit western Europe in early July and does not want the case to overshadow his trip. Golunov denied the charges, which carried a sentence of up to 20 years, and accused police officers of planting narcotics on him. The images were swiftly deleted from the interior ministry's website after a police spokesman admitted they had been taken at a different location and bore no relation to the charges against the journalist.

"Together, we made the unbelievable happen: we stopped the criminal prosecution of an innocent man. Thank you!" the statement said. The recommendations were not followed within Golunov's case.

Golunov was cheered by several hundred reporters and onlookers outside a police building.

A criminal case against a Russian investigative journalist, which sparked street protests and accusations of police misconduct, has been dropped due to lack of evidence of any wrongdoing, Russia's interior minister announced.

"The materials for an internal investigation [of the Russian police officials] will be transferred from the internal security division of the Internal Affairs Ministry of Russia to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the goal of evaluating the validity of the actions taken by the police officers who arrested the civilian", the statement said.

The police officers suspected of framing the journalist have been suspended pending an internal investigation, Kolokoltsev said.

Wednesday's march was initially called to press for the release of Golunov who was then suddenly freed on the eve of the rally. "Now of us that tried to space him up desires to be judged".

Kolokoltsev said Golunov has been released from house arrest, and he intends to seek the dismissal of two senior police officials and to investigate others.

"This is just the beginning, there is a lot of work ahead so that what happened never happens to anyone else", they said.

Golunov rose to prominence with his investigations into corruption at the Moscow City Hall, the crime-ridden funeral industry and the murky food markets. He has reported on landfills, loan sharks and bureaucracies.

Later that day, Golunov was detained in public and taken back to his apartment, where he was confronted with drug paraphernalia.

"Russia's Investigative Committee will determine the circumstances related to the unfounded detention of a journalist and the violation of his rights", the government's top investigative body declared.

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