Russian authorities announced Tuesday that they were dropping all charges against a prominent journalist after days of outrage from his peers in the country and around the world.
In a rare act of media solidarity, Russia's three major business newspapers all published identical front pages Monday in protest of Ivan Golunov's arrest.
Golunov, an investigative reporter with Meduza, a Latvia-based independent news outlet, was arrested Friday after police said they found drugs on him during a stop in Moscow. Golunov denied that the mephedrone, also known as bath salts, was his and accused the police of planting it on him for his work exposing government and corporate wrongdoing. His lawyer said he was then beaten while in detention.
A judge released him to house arrest Saturday, ahead of the government's declaration Tuesday that the case was being dropped entirely.
"The results of biological, forensic, fingerprinting, and genetic testing have led to a decision to cease the criminal prosecution of the civilian Ivan Golunov due to a lack of evidence that he participated in committing a crime," Internal Affairs Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said in a statement posted to the Ministry of Interior Affairs website Tuesday. "Today, he will be freed from house arrest, and the charges against him will be cleared."
Golunov's detention had been met with immediate outcry from journalists inside and outside Russia, who believed that the case against him was meant to punish him for his reporting.
Meduza did not immediately respond to a BuzzFeed News request for comment about the news but did tweet out the news with several exclamation points.
Kolokoltsev also announced in his statement that he would recommend that Russian President Vladimir Putin fire several high-ranking law enforcement officials for their role in the case. Soon after Golunov's arrest, the Ministry of Internal Affairs posted pictures showing several large drug stashes, which it claimed were all taken in Golunov's apartment. Within hours, the pictures had been removed and the ministry had clarified that only one was from the reporter's home — the rest had been taken during ongoing anti-drug operations.
“I believe that, regardless of their professional affiliation, the rights of any citizen should always be protected,” Kolokoltsev's statement ended.