MOSCOW — The police in Moscow on Friday introduced the detention of an investigative journalist on drug fees, in what gave the impression to be the newest official effort to muzzle impartial voices in Russia.
Ivan Golunov, 36, a reporter who has specialised in exposing corruption in Moscow Metropolis Corridor, was detained on Thursday on his approach to meet a fellow reporter. Mr. Golunov works for Meduza, an internet information service.
Russian regulation enforcement businesses have been recognized to arrest journalists or civil society activists on drug or different manufactured fees, and Mr. Golunov’s employer mentioned that the medication had been planted.
Unlawful narcotics had been present in his backpack, based on a police assertion, and a search of Mr. Golunov’s condo turned up extra medication in addition to scales, prompting officers to open a felony investigation. A conviction on fees of getting ready to promote medication can carry a jail sentence of as much as 15 years.
Mr. Golunov mentioned that officers planted two packages containing an unknown substance in his backpack, based on Russian press experiences.
As well as, the police launched images that they mentioned had been taken in Mr. Golunov’s condo, together with what regarded like laboratory tools and open, clear sacks of white powder. Solely one of many 9 images appeared to have been taken in his condo, Meduza quoted his household as saying.
Mr. Golunov made a reputation for himself in Moscow for his experiences chronicling corruption and incompetence in Metropolis Corridor. His tales this yr included an exposé about how family members of a deputy mayor had earned tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars on metropolis contracts that they then used to purchase costly Moscow actual property, and the way a agency that accomplished a controversial restoration of a well-known fountain had a historical past of corruption.
“We’re satisfied that Ivan Golunov is harmless,” the writer of Meduza, Galina Timchenko, and its editor in chief, Ivan Kolpakov, mentioned in a press release from the information service’s headquarters in Riga, Latvia. “Furthermore, we have now motive to consider he’s been focused due to his work as a journalist.”
The arrest provoked an outpouring of criticism and mockery from journalists, attorneys and opposition politicians on social media. Yuri Dud, a star interviewer on YouTube, wrote on Twitter: “Immediately: You discover 9 penthouses owned by family members of Moscow’s deputy mayor. Tomorrow: You might be discovered possessing dope.”
Mr. Golunov and his lawyer insisted that the police take samples from his fingernails and clothes to show that he had not dealt with any medication, however they refused, Meduza mentioned. The police issued a collection of statements denying that the photographs it had launched had been staged, however later admitted that they weren’t from Mr. Golunov’s condo. Additionally they denied that he had been overwhelmed after his arrest.
Mr. Golunov’s lawyer, Dmitri Dzhulay, couldn’t instantly be reached for remark.
Meduza was based by reporters who left Russia for Latvia after Ms. Timchenko was fired as the top of the impartial information company Lenta.ru in 2014 and its reporting started toeing the official authorities line.
The Union of Journalists referred to as on its members to stage one-man pickets exterior police headquarters on Friday night — group protests require a allow from Metropolis Corridor. A few of those that appeared had been detained instantly, however Meduza reported afterward Friday that the 12 picketers detained by police had been launched.
There have been varied circumstances lately of civil society activists and journalists dealing with comparable drug fees.
Oyub Titiev, 61, an activist who labored for a corporation investigating accusations of human rights abuse in Chechnya, was sentenced in March to 4 years in a penal colony on drug possession fees broadly seen as manufactured.
Zhalaudi Geriyev, a journalist who lined the Caucasus area, was discovered responsible by a Russian courtroom of drug possession in 2016 and was not too long ago launched after serving a three-year sentence.