Russia drops drug charges against journalist after outcry over arrest

Moscow [Russia]: Russia on Tuesday dropped drug charges against investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, whose arrest sparked off protests across the country.

Golunov, who is a special correspondent for the independent news website Meduza, was released from house arrest after the Russian government said that the case was dropped due to lack of evidence.

A joyous and relieved Golunov said that he would continue doing his investigative journalism.

“According to the results of biological, forensic and fingerprint examinations and DNA testing, a decision was made to terminate the criminal prosecution of citizen Ivan Golunov due to the lack of evidence of his participation in the crime,” Russia’s Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev was quoted by CNN as saying.

The Russian minister said those police officers who arrested Golunov last week were suspended and he would request the removal of two top interior ministry officials — chief of internal affairs at the western district of Russia, Andrei Puchkov, and head of the Moscow Directorate for drug control at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Yuri Devyatkin.

Reacting to his release, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said, “The best day. In tears. Happiness.”

The Russian scribe is well known for reports on official corruption.

On June 6, Golunov was detained at his residence in downtown Moscow. Police had said the scribe was carrying various packages containing four grams of mephedrone, a synthetic stimulant drug.

Three packages, a parcel containing a powdery substance and scales were also found in his house, police had said.
A criminal case was lodged against the 36-year-old journalist and the news of his arrest has sparked protests in Russia with demonstrators terming it as “trumped-up drugs charge.”

In a statement, Meduza said that they were “glad that authorities have heard the society.”

“This is the result of an unprecedented international campaign of journalistic and civic solidarity. Together we did an incredible thing: We stopped the prosecution of an innocent man,” Meduza journalists said in the statement.