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Ivan Golunov: Russian journalist walks free after police drop criminal charges

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By Mark Armstrong  with Reuters
Russian investigative journalist Golunov attends a court hearing in Moscow
Russian investigative journalist Golunov attends a court hearing in Moscow   -   Copyright  Reuters

Russian police say they have dropped a criminal case against an investigative journalist amid claims he was framed.

Ivan Golunov, known for his work probing corruption, was arrested last week after law enforcement said they found drugs on him.

The 36-year-old, charged over the weekend with trying to illegally sell drugs, walked free on Tuesday afternoon.

His case sparked public outcry and three Russian newspapers published identical front-page headlines to protest his detention.

All of them say they suspect Ivan Golunov has been framed.

The move by the papers is highly unusual in Russia, where journalists are routinely threatened and even murdered over their work.

As well as Russian media, Golunov has provoked outrage from international media and statements of concern from the European Union and the United States.

So what is it about Golunov that has caused has caused such a unified cry of protest?

Who is Ivan Golunov?

The 36-year old journalist is an investigative reporter with Meduza, an independent Russian language media outlet based in Latvia that describes itself as "the real Russia today."

By basing itself in an EU country, Meduza can get around censorship from Moscow, although some of its journalists live in Russia, including Golunov.

The journalist is well-known in Russia for investigating corruption especially among Moscow city officials and in his work he has threatened the interests of many powerful individuals.

His colleagues describe him as one of the best investigative journalists in the country and they think that is why he has been targeted on what they believe are fabricated charges.

Meduza said he was working on a story and was on his way to meet a source last Thursday when he was arrested.

Police say they found drugs in Golunov's rucksack, and he faces between 10 and 20 years in jail if found guilty.

Golunov's lawyer says he was assaulted and punched by police officers, something which they deny.

A rattled state?

Some observers think the authorities are nervous about the reaction to his arrest.

On Saturday a court rejected a request to hold Golunov in a pre-trial detention centre. He was instead put under house arrest.

Given the gravity of the accusations, the decision is being seen by supporters as a sign that they are worried about the outcry.

The Kremlin said on Monday that the detention of a Russian investigative journalist on drug dealing charges raised many questions and that it was following the case closely.

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