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Russia detains ex-police officers over drugs planted on journalist

January 29, 2020

Russian investigators said Wednesday they had detained five former police officers as part of a probe into the high-profile arrest of reporter Ivan Golunov on trumped-up drug charges.

Those detained formerly served in a police drug enforcement unit. They planted drugs in the backpack and flat of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov last June, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

“They falsified the results of evidence-gathering operations which then served as proof of Golunov’s guilt,” said the Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes.

Kremlin critics say drug charges are routinely used in Russia to silence rights activists or to settle scores with opponents in disputes.

The Investigative Committee statement was a rare admission of wrong-doing on the part of Russian law enforcement agencies.

Before framing the journalist the police officers “illegally” bought, stored and transported the drugs, the investigators said.

They will be charged shortly, the investigators added.

Golunov, a journalist with Meduza, an independent news site based in EU member Latvia, was arrested and accused of attempted drug dealing, for which he faced up to 20 years in prison.

His supporters saw his detention as punishment for his reporting.

Days later, Russia released the investigative reporter and dropped the charges against him after an unprecedented public campaign in his defence by supporters.

President Vladimir Putin sacked two senior police officers over Golunov’s arrest and his case has prompted wide-reaching questions about Russian police’s lack of accountability.

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