Ivan Golunov, a special correspondent for the independent news site Meduza, was charged in a Moscow court with attempted large-scale sale of drugs, Russian state news agency TASS reported, citing Pavel Chikov of the human-rights organization Agora, whose lawyers defend the journalist.
Meduza quoted Chikov on Saturday as saying that an ambulance doctor who examined Golunov in police custody said the journalist had concussion, bruising and possible broken ribs. Police refused to hospitalize the journalist, Meduza said.
If found guilty, Golunov could be jailed for 10 to 20 years, according to Reuters.
News of the 36-year-old’s arrest has provoked outrage in Russia, and journalists have staged protests over what they have described as a trumped-up drugs charge.
Golunov was known for investigating official corruption, and critics have decried his arrest as an example of how easily criminal cases can be fabricated by Russian authorities.
Beaten in custody
Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of the Kremlin-funded RT network, criticized the arrest, saying: “The government must answer all the questions society has about this arrest. For the simple reason that society has very, very, very many of them.”
Golunov’s lawyer and colleagues have accused police of planting the drugs on the journalist and framing him, Reuters reported.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called for Golunov’s release as well as investigate allegations that he had been beaten in police custody.
“Russian authorities should immediately drop their charges against Ivan Golunov, release him, and investigate allegations of mistreatment of the journalist in police custody,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.
Ivan Kolpakov, the editor-in-chief at Meduza, told the CPJ that the drug charges were “absurd,” and that he had “no doubts that the charges are fabricated and are related to Golunov’s journalism.”
In a statement posted online on Friday, Kolpakov and Meduza CEO Galina Timchenko said Golunov had been beaten by police during detention. A police spokesman rejected those claims, according to TASS.
Meduza also cited Golunov’s lawyer, Dmitry Dzhulai, as saying that the detained journalist had not been allowed to eat or sleep for more than a day.
CNN’s Bianca Britton contributed to this report.