A prominent Russian investigative journalist has been charged with attempted drug dealing, his lawyer said Saturday, in a case that has captured headlines and sparked protests in Russia.
Ivan Golunov, a special correspondent for the independent news site Meduza, was charged in a Moscow court with attempted large-scale sale of drugs, Russian state news agency TASS reported, citing Pavel Chikov of the human-rights organization Agora, whose lawyers defend the journalist.
His arrest provoked an outpouring of support from Russian journalists, with many critics accusing local authorities of fabricating the case.
If convicted, Golunov could be jailed for 10 to 20 years.
His release from prison comes after an ambulance doctor, who examined Golunov in police custody, said the journalist had concussion, bruising and possible broken ribs. Police subsequently allowed him to be examined, according to a statement from the Moscow branch of the Russian Ministry of Interior.
He was released from hospital following examination by doctors and sent to a Moscow court, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.
Alexander Myasnikov, chief physician of the City Clinical Hospital No. 71, told RIA-Novosti doctors had examined him, taken a CT scan and blood samples and found no medical reason to keep him in the hospital.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called for Golunov’s release and an investigation into allegations that he had been beaten in police custody.
“Russian authorities should immediately drop their charges against Ivan Golunov, release him, and investigate allegations of mistreatment of the journalist in police custody,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.
Ivan Kolpakov, the editor-in-chief at Meduza, told the CPJ that the drug charges were “absurd,” and that he had “no doubts that the charges are fabricated and are related to Golunov’s journalism.”
In a statement posted online on Friday, Kolpakov and Meduza CEO Galina Timchenko said Golunov had been beaten by police during detention. A police spokesman rejected those claims, according to TASS.
News of the 36-year-old’s arrest has provoked outrage in Russia, and journalists have staged protests over what they have described as a trumped-up drugs charge.
Golunov is known for investigating official corruption, and critics have decried his arrest as an example of how easily criminal cases can be fabricated by Russian authorities.