Russian journalist Ivan Golunov charged with attempted drug dealing

Prominent Russian journalist charged with drug dealing colleagues claim persecution

Russian journalist charged with attempt to deal 'large amount' of drugs: lawyer

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.

Ivan Golunov, who was detained this week for alleged drug offences, was taken to court on Saturday after being hospitalised with suspected head injuries. On Saturday, he was taken to hospital for examination after health complaints, police reported.

His lawyer Pavel Chikov said paramedics suspected he had broken ribs and concussion.

Golunov on Friday told a representative of Russia's presidential rights council, which advises President Vladimir Putin, that he had been beaten while in custody, with police twice punching him in the head and standing on his chest.

News of the 36-year-old's arrest has provoked outrage in Russian Federation, and journalists have staged protests over what they have described as a trumped-up drugs charge. It believes he is being persecuted for his journalistic work.

In another highly unusual move, police released photos of a homemade drug lab that they said belonged to Golunov, then later deleted the photos, saying they had been posted online by mistake. According to the police, Golunov was stopped and searched while walking along the central Tsvetnoy Boulevard on Thursday afternoon and found carrying four grams of mephedrone in his rucksack. Authorities said they found packets of mephedrone, a designer drug, in his backpack.

Meduza general director Galina Timchenko told reporters that Golunov had been receiving death threats.

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The case had been marked by irregularities: Golunov was beaten while in police custody, suffering bruising to his ribs and skull, because he refused to sign a police report without his lawyer present.

"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 branch in Russian Federation.

A Moscow court is reviewing his case, with the prosecution reportedly planning to ask for a 72 hour extension to his preliminary detention.

The police, she adds, admitted that "most of the published photos had not been taken at Mr Golunov's flat after all, but were related to another criminal investigation that might be linked to his detention". "He also hasn't eaten".

Supporters protesting against the arrest were also detained. "Moreover, we have every reason to believe that Golunov was targeted because of his journalistic activities". In 2017, journalist Yulia Latynina was forced to flee Russian Federation after a series of attacks.

Golunov's arrest triggered shock waves among independent reporters in Russian Federation.

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