Russian journalist Ivan Golunov 'beaten by police in custody'

Doctor says investigative reporter may have suffered concussion and broken ribs as court orders house arrest

A Russian investigative journalist arrested on controversial drug charges has been severely beaten in custody, his lawyer has said.

A doctor who inspected Ivan Golunov said he may have suffered broken ribs, concussion and a haematoma.

Golunov, a reporter for the independent Meduza news website, was arrested on drug charges on Friday. Colleagues and friends believe he is being targeted for his work on state corruption and business interests.

Two separate teams of doctors suggested Golunov be taken to hospital for x-rays but police investigators refused. The injuries were sustained while Golunov was in custody, his lawyer Dmitri Dzhulai confirmed by text message.

Golunov was later taken to a Moscow hospital, several Russian outlets reported. He had earlier complained police punched and kicked him about the head and chest because he refused to sign a police report before he had access to a lawyer.

He was formally charged on Saturday with drug possession with intent to sell, a crime that carries a prison sentence of between 10 and 20 years. Police said that they found 3.56 grams of the clubbing drug mephedrone in a backpack belonging to Golunov and 5.42 grams of cocaine in an apartment he purportedly rented in Moscow. Golunov has said the drugs were planted.

The court placed him under two months’ house arrest while the charges are investigated, rejecting a request from investigators to hold him in custody.

Hundreds of people protested against his arrest outside Moscow’s police headquarters on Friday, holding signs in support reading: “My name is Ivan Golunov. I am a journalist. Arrest me, too.”

Police had also demanded Golunov sign a confession, Dzhulai said. Russian investigators often put suspects in criminal cases under pressure in order to sobtain confessions, which makes it far easier to secure a conviction.

Police have also tried to limit the public flow of information about the case, demanding that Golunov’s lawyers sign non-disclosure agreements. They have refused.

Golunov has investigated family members of a Moscow deputy mayor who amassed a fortune in real estate, predatory lenders who purchased apartments in Moscow, plans to ship Moscow’s waste to the regions, and the efforts of a senior official’s son to corner Russia’s funeral market.

He had been receiving threats before his arrest, his editors said.

“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,” said Natalia Zviagina, the director of Amnesty International’s Russia office . “The circumstances of Ivan Golunov’s detention sound dubious and follow a depressingly familiar pattern.”


Andrew Roth in Moscow

The GuardianTramp

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