Ivan Golunov, a prominent Russian investigative journalist who has exposed corruption among Moscow’s most powerful business and political elite, has been hospitalized with bruises and abrasions two days after his arrest for allegedly trying to illegally sell drugs.
The 36-year-old reporter for the Latvia-based news site Meduza was jailed on Thursday, but was taken to a hospital on Saturday after complaining of feeling poorly.
His lawyer, Dmitry Julay, told reporters that the journalist had been denied food and sleep for more than 24 hours.
Moscow police said only that an emergency medical squad was summoned and found that Golunov should be taken a hospital for examination, but did not elaborate.
The head of human rights organization Agora, Pavel Chikov, told Russian news agencies the reporter was suspected of having a concussion and a broken rib. In a video taken after his arrest and posted by the Russian news site Breaking Mash, Golunov showed marks on his back.
Meduza said on its website that Golunov allegedly was beaten after his arrest and is being “being persecuted because of his journalistic activity.”
Meduza said in a statement that Golunov had received threats in recent months over a story he was working on. “We are convinced that Ivan Golunov is innocent,” the group said.
Alexei Kovalev, head of the Meduza investigative team, said he was with Golunov shortly before his arrest and called him “one of the best investigative reporters in the industry.”
“Okay, listen up,” Kovalev said on Twitter to sound an alarm of the arrest. “This is not a drill.”
Demonstrators protesting Golunov’s arrest turned out in Moscow, as well as in Perm, Yaroslavl, Krasnodar, and other Russian cities, according to Meduza.
PEN America, which advocates for free expression worldwide, said in a statement that the “questionable accusations”against the journalist “reflect the Russian government’s long-standing practice of harassing its critics via both legalistic and clearly extra-legal means, which appear to have widened as regional elections are coming in September.”
Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Moscow during the Obama administration, said Golunov’s arrest reflects the brutality of the Putin era. “Putin’s regime is an autocracy,” he said on Twitter.”Whether Putin personally orders every assault on human rights or rule of law is immaterial. This is his regime.”
He equated Golunov’s arrest with the assassination of prominent opposition figure Boris Nemtsov in 2015 and the attempted poisoning in Britain last year of former Russian military officer and double agent for the British intelligence services.
The reporter was stopped and searched by police while on his way to meet another journalist on Thursday.
Police alleged that four grams of a synthetic stimulant were found in his backpack and that other drugs were found in his apartment. His lawyer maintains the drugs were planted on him. He was officially charged on Saturday with attempting illegally to produce, sell or pass on drugs.
Police released photos which they said showed drug paraphernalia in his apartment, but these were later withdrawn, BBC Russian journalist Olga Ivshina reports.
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.”
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Golunova has long been a thorn in the side of Russia’s power center after repeatedly exposing among business people and political figure, as well as uncovering fraudulent financial schemes in Moscow.
Contributing: Associated Press
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