Russian journalist charged for drugs gets a house arrest until August

Russian journalist charged for drugs gets a house arrest until August

Ivan Golunov a prominent Russian journalist was taken to a Moscow court on Saturday after undergoing medical examination that was initiated when he complained of feeling poorly in police custody.In the court hearing where he pleaded not guilty and denied being involvement in drug dealings and and further offered to help in the investigation.After the court hearing he was placed under house arrest for the next court hearing until 11th of August.Golunov broke into tears speaking to journalist from the cage he was confined in.

Reportedly according to his employer Meduza an online news portal, the Moscow police said Ivan Golunov was arrested on Thursday on his way to meeting with a source where ilegal drugs were found in his bag.

A lawyer for the Journalist popularly known in Russia foe investigating corruption cases in Moscow, said he steongly believe that the police had planted the illegal susbstance into his client bag in a bid to frame him up.

The court rejected a request from investigators to keep Mr. Golunov in custody. Earlier Saturday, he was given a medical examination amid reports he was injured while being detained.

“All of us at Meduza are 100% certain that the persecution of Ivan Golunov is related to his journalistic work,” Meduza’s editor in chief Ivan Kolpakov said.

Threats and harassment against reporters are common in Russia. In 2016, Chechen journalist Zhalaudi Geriyev was sentenced to three years in jail on a drug charge; similar charges were brought against journalist, Nikolai Yarst, in Sochi, shortly before the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Mr. Golunov’s detention comes as Russian authorities to tighten control over online activities by adopting legislation that would more effectively filter information coming into the country—a move that has triggered concern over infringement privacy. Last month, authorities ordered dating app Tinder to share user data and messages with government and intelligence agencies.

Russia is ranked 149 out of 180 countries , behind Venezuela and Honduras, according to the 2019 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media advocacy group. Norway ranks as the country with the highest press freedoms, the media watchdog reports.

Johann Bihr, head of Reporters Without Borders’ Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said that Mr. Golunov’s case could “mark a significant escalation in the harassment of [Russia’s] independent media.”

The detention of Mr. Golunov, who has exposed graft among Moscow’s political and business elite, sparked protests among fellow reporters in Moscow on Friday and Saturday, where some held up posters with slogans “I am the journalist Ivan Golunov. Arrest me too.”

Mr. Kolpakov credited the “unprecedented campaign of journalistic solidarity” for Mr. Golunov being moved to house arrest.

“Under today’s standards, what happened here was incredible—a victory, without a doubt,” he said.

Mr. Golunov’s defense team said he had received death threats for his work, which includes stories about corruption in Moscow government, and suggested the drugs were planted, according to Meduza, which has some reporters based in Russia.

At the court hearing on Saturday, Mr. Golunov maintained his innocence.

“I have never used drugs, I am not guilty of anything and am ready to cooperate with investigators if they adhere to the honest rules of the game,” he was reported as saying by the Russian news agency Interfax.

During his hospitalization on Saturday, a doctor who examined Mr. Golunov said he may have suffered broken ribs, concussion and a hematoma, according to Meduza.

Officials denied that Mr. Golunov was beaten. Police said that they found around four grams of the clubbing drug mephedrone in Mr. Golunov’s backpack and more than five grams of cocaine in his Moscow apartment.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow called for his release, writing on Twitter on Saturday that he “should not be targeted in relation for [SIC] his work.”

—Thomas Grove contributed to this article.

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