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Russian reporter appeals house arrest ahead of solidarity march

June 11, 2019

Lawyers for a Russian investigative reporter facing controversial drug charges filed an appeal against his house arrest Tuesday as thousands of supporters prepared to hold a solidarity march in Moscow.

Ivan Golunov, a 36-year-old reporter with independent Russian-language media outlet Meduza, was arrested last week on drug charges that his lawyers and supporters say were trumped up to punish him for his investigations.

Golunov has been charged with attempting to deal a “large amount” of drugs and was placed under house arrest at the weekend. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

His lawyer Sergei Badamshin told AFP the defence team had appealed against his house arrest and a spokesman at Moscow City Court said the case would be heard on Friday.

Golunov said he was beaten in detention while his lawyers insisted the drugs had been planted on him.

His case has sparked outrage over what critics see as the impunity and corruption of law enforcement agencies.

After his arrest, hundreds of supporters protested outside the court and the Moscow police headquarters.

Golunov’s lawyers argued that his detention was carried out with numerous legal violations.

Badamshin said the latest tests showed Golunov’s fingerprints were not found on any of the items police said were seized during a search of his flat.

Nearly 24,000 people said on Facebook they were interested in or planned to attend a pro-Golunov march on Wednesday, a public holiday in the country for Russia Day.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned the march could interfere with planned festivities.

One of the organisers, journalist Ilya Azar of opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, wrote on Facebook that it was “first and foremost the criminal prosecution of Ivan Golunov that interferes with the festive atmosphere”.

In an unprecedented gesture of solidarity, three major newspapers Kommersant, Vedomosti and RBK published the same front page on Monday with the headline “I am/we are Ivan Golunov” in giant letters.

The organisers of the march urged supporters to take part and carry copies of the newspapers.

They were negotiating Tuesday with city authorities who had not given official permission for the event to go ahead.

Police in Russia typically break up unsanctioned rallies and arrest protest leaders.

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Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.