A prominent Russian investigative journalist was arrested and allegedly beaten while in detention. Ivan Golunov, who works for the independent Latvia-based Meduza online news agency, was charged with drug dealing.
Four grams of synthetic stimulant mephedrone was found in his backpack, while a second bag and scales were confiscated later from his apartment, Moscow police said on June 7. Golunov however stated that the bag did not belong to him.
Meduza Director General Galina Timchenko stated that a request for a medical test to show that Golunov does not take drugs had been rejected by Russian authorities.
Timchenko alleged that Golunov had been beaten while in custody, stating that she has photographs showing the left side of Golunov’s face.
She disclosed that the 36-year-old journalist had recently received threats linked to a story he was investigating.
Meduza news website special correspondent, Illya Zhegulev stated, “Pretty much every investigation done by Ivan Golunov hurt someone’s interests.”
Zhegulev added many of the investigative stories that Golunov had worked on or is working on involve alleged corruption of Russian officials or security forces representatives, trying to conceal illegal businesses or activities.
Zhegulev stated that he has known Ivan Golunov for 12 years. “It isn’t just that he didn’t take drugs. He never even drank alcohol!” said Zhegulev, adding that at his recent birthday party, Golunov was drinking non-alcoholic beer.
The Meduza news website special correspondent stated that Golunov “is one of the best investigative journalists” in Russia and that he is “an extremely careful and law-abiding person.”
Golunov lawyer said his client was not allowed to contact his family or lawyer for 12 hours after he was detained.
Last Friday afternoon, Golunov’s colleagues and other journalists went to the Moscow police headquarters to demonstrate what they believe is a deliberate retaliation for a dedicated journalist’s work.
Under Russian law, single protest pickets are allowed without prior authorization.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the Moscow police headquarters in the evening.
One by one, they took turns holding a placard in support of Golunov.
Police arrested 11 journalists during the protest but later released them without charges, according to OVD-Info, a nongovernment organization that monitors politically motivated detentions.
короче на одиночных пикетах по Голунову задерживают журналистов pic.twitter.com/TsJ87JXPxT
— бартлби (@A3AP) June 7, 2019
Amnesty International raised concerns about Golunov’s detention. The director of Amnesty International’s representative office in Russia, Natalia Zviagina issued a statement that is posted on the London-based nongovernment organization website.
Zviagina said the circumstances of Golunov’s incarceration “sound dubious and follow a depressingly familiar pattern.”
“Everything indicates that the authorities are planting drugs on their targets to shut them up with a jail sentence,” stated Zviagina, calling for an immediate investigation into allegations that Golunov had been beaten while in custody.
If found guilty, Golunov could face eight years in prison, according to a statement on Amnesty International website.