Russian police detained investigative journalist Ivan Golunov on Friday and, according to his lawyer, beat him while in their custody.
Golunov, an investigative reporter with Meduza, an independent outlet based in Latvia, was reportedly stopped on the street by police, who claim to have found the drug mephedrone, also known as bath salts, on his person. They then took him into custody and refused to allow him to speak with a lawyer, according to Meduza, which said in a statement that Golunov managed to pass on the message through friends.
"When he’d finally been granted access to an attorney, Ivan asked the police to take samples from his hands and fingernails for forensic analysis that could determine if he was ever in contact with the drugs police say they found," a lengthy statement from Meduza Editor-in-Chief Ivan Kolpakov and CEO Galina Timchenko read. "Ivan’s request was denied."
His lawyer, Dmitry Dzhulai, told the Moscow Times that he was dragged across the floor while in custody and at least one of the police officers detaining him punched him in the face and kicked him in the chest. When Dzhulai asked to call the paramedics to document Golunov's injuries, the request was denied, Meduza reported.
Golunov's reporting over the years has targeted the powerful in Russia, including Moscow's deputy mayor — whose family Golunov revealed was gaining a fortune in real estate through government contracts — and a group attempting to take over Russia's funeral industry, which he showed had ties to both a government official and a Neo-Nazi group.
Kolpakov, the Meduza editor-in-chief, told BuzzFeed News that Golunov has not eaten or slept over the last 30 hours. "He is in a very bad condition, and can barely understand what’s going on," Kolpakov said, citing Golunov's attorney. "They are going to arrest him officially tomorrow."
Russian police claimed that they had found large quantities of drugs in Golunov's apartment and published pictures of the alleged stash. Friends of Gulanov say that the apartment seen in the photographs isn't his, according to the Guardian.
The photos were later deleted and the Russian Interior Ministry acknowledged that only one of the nine published photographs were actually from Golunov's apartment. The rest, they said, were from an ongoing effort to crackdown on drug trafficking in the country. The ministry told state-run outlet Tass that it will launch an investigation into why the photos were published as though they were all from the same raid.
“Everything indicates that the authorities are planting drugs on their targets to shut them up with a jail sentence," Natalia Zviagina, the director of Amnesty International’s representative office in Russia, said in a statement. "Ivan Golunov is a prominent critic and his investigations into government corruption clearly did not go down well with the authorities. It seems he is now paying the price."
Other Russian journalists rallied around Golunov on Friday. A small protest in front of Moscow's police headquarters resulted in 15 journalists being detained.
"This is a very dangerous signal," Ilya Barabanov of the BBC's Russia service told Meduza. "We have to respond to this. They could use the same scheme to put any undesirable journalist away for 10, 15, 20 years — whatever sentence comes to these people’s minds."