Russian journalist released to house arrest in drug case

International

Journalists and supporters of Ivan Golunov, a journalist who worked for the independent website Meduza, gather at a court building in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, June 8, 2019. A prominent Russian investigative journalist has been charged with drug dealing after four grams of the synthetic stimulant mephedrone were found in his backpack, Moscow police said Friday. (AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)

MOSCOW (AP) — A prominent Russian investigative reporter who was detained on drug-dealing charges has been released to house arrest in a case that has raised widespread alarm among journalists.

Ivan Golunov was taken to a Moscow court late Saturday after undergoing medical examination that was initiated when he complained of feeling poorly in police custody.

He left the courtroom after the ruling to place him under house arrest until Aug. 7. In the court hearing, he denied being involved with drugs and said he would be willing to help investigators.

While speaking to journalists from the cage in which defendants are held in Russian courtrooms, Golunov broke into tears.

The Moscow police department said that an emergency medical squad was called for Golunov on Saturday afternoon and determined he should be taken a hospital for examination.

It did not specify Golunov’s medical problem. The head of human rights organization Agora, Pavel Chikov, told Russian news agencies Golunov was suspected of having a concussion and a broken rib.

Golunov’s publication, the independent website Meduza, said he allegedly was beaten after his Thursday arrest.

Police are alleging four grams of a synthetic stimulant were found in his backpack. But many journalists suspect the arrest was retribution for Golunov’s investigative work.

Golunov’s recent work has included a report on unscrupulous money-lenders who evict debtors from their residences and on an organization allegedly trying to take over Russia’s funeral industry.

Golunov said he has received threats related to the latter, Meduza editor Ivan Kolpakov told the Interfax news agency.

Supporters of Golunov gathered outside the Moscow courthouse and dozens of people demonstrated in St. Petersburg against the arrest.

“I don’t want people to be persecuted for their political views. Tomorrow, they may plant drugs on me, on you, on anybody if we keep silent,” Boris Vishnevsky, deputy head of the St. Petersburg legislative assembly, said at the demonstration.

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