Russian authorities have charged well-known investigative reporter Ivan Golunov with attempt at "large-scale" drug dealing as his colleagues claim he was framed. He will remain under house arrest for at least two months.
Russian reporter Ivan Golunov collapsed at a police station on Saturday ahead of a court hearing over alleged drug-related offenses, Golunov's lawyer Pavel Chikov wrote on social media.
Golunov was arrested in Moscow on Thursday while he was on his way to meet a source, according to his employers at the Russian-language Meduzanews outlet. Moscow police claim to have found drugs in his backpack and in his apartment.
Meduza and many other independent media sources claim police planted the drugs on the 36-year-old reporter, who has made his reputation by investigating high-level corruption, including shady dealings in Moscow city hall. The news site also reported that police refused Golunov's request to be tested for handling drugs, and that authorities only allowed the journalist to contact his legal counsel some 16 hours after the arrest.
Golunov's lawyer Chikov claims his client was beaten by the police. On Saturday, Chikov said paramedics suspected Golunov had suffered broken ribs, bruising and a concussion, and that "police chiefs" were pushing against his hospitalization.
A close friend of Golunov's, Berlin doctor Aleksandr Alekseev, told DW "'Ivan does not have any neurological disturbances (brain damage) or fractures." But he does have bruising: 'That means he was beaten up,' Alekseev added,
He also denied he traded drugs: "I've never seen he was getting drugs," Alekseev said.
Swelling on the back of the head
Moscow police said Golunov was hospitalized on Saturday after he complained of "feeling unwell."
"He has received emergency treatment," they told the Interfax news agency. "Based on the result of examination by the ambulance doctors, a decision was made to direct the detainee to a medical facility for analysis."
The ambulance doctor told the agency that Golunov was diagnosed with hematoma (swelling) on the back of the head, as well as "multiple bruises on the both the front and the back of the rib cage, injury of 10 or 11 ribs and suspected closed skull-brain trauma and suspected cerebral concussion."
However, the chief of medicine at the Moscow hospital later said Golunov was in "satisfactory condition" and was being discharged from the facility.
The doctor, Alexander Myasnikov, confirmed Golunov had suffered a hematoma but said a scan showed no anomalies.
Later Saturday, Golunov appeared before a judge and was charged with an "attempt at illegal large-scale dealing of narcotics," with the judge ordering at least two months of house arrest until August 7.
At the hearing, Golunov denied being involved with drugs and said he would help investigators.
If the case goes to trial and Golunov is convicted, he will face between 10 and 20 years in prison.
Golunov's arrest triggered shock waves among independent reporters in Russia. While journalists often face persecution and threats for reporting on topics not sanctioned by the Kremlin, drug accusations such as the one against Golunov have so far been relatively rare.
"Everything indicates that the authorities are planting drugs on their targets to shut them up with a jail sentence," said Natalia Zvyagina, director of Amnesty International's office in Russia.
Moscow police briefly detained three employees of the online news outlet Takiye Dela for staging a picket line in support of Golunov.
Meduza general director Galina Timchenko told reporters that Golunov had been receiving death threats.
"Two months ago they became almost daily," she said, adding that she was unable to persuade Golunov to contact police.
"They said 'we'll bury you forever'," she said.
dj, aw/rc (AFP, Interfax)