Russian police drop drug charges against investigative journalist Ivan Golunov

Russian investigative journalist Golunov attends a court hearing in Moscow

Russian media outlets urge scribe’s release

The criminal case against Russian journalist Ivan Golunov, who said police planted drugs on him and beat him, has been dismissed following an global outcry.

He had been on his way to meet another journalist last week when he was stopped and searched by police officers.

"Following biological, forensic, fingerprints and genetic tests, a decision has been made to drop a criminal case against journalist Ivan Golunov for lack of evidence proving his involvement in the crime in question".

Journalist Ivan Golunov was detained on drug charges last week but says he is being punished for his work as an investigative reporter.

Yevgeny Bryun of the Russian health ministry said on state television on Sunday that lab tests of Golunov's urine did not find any traces of drugs.

"I believe that the rights of every citizen, regardless of his profession, must be protected", said Kolokoltsev.

The journalist appeared at the Investigative Committee building in Moscow late on Tuesday to have his ankle monitor removed. The placard reads "I am/We are Ivan Golunov". And via his employer, he said the "evidence" that was allegedly gathered from his apartment - including various drugs and weight scales - had actually been planted there.

On June 6, Ivan Golunov, who works for the Meduza news website, was hauled off in downtown Moscow and taken to a local police station on charges of illegally producing, selling and transporting drugs.

Golunov faced a possible sentence of 10 years or more. I'll make investigations, since I have to justify the trust of those who supported me. More than 20,000 people signed an online pledge to march in the capital on Wednesday, a public holiday, to protest Golunov's arrest.

"This is a very surprising turnaround of events", said Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen, reporting from Moscow. In a country where the acquittal rate in courts is less than 1%, instances of high profile cases being closed are essentially unheard of and, even in ordinary cases, charges are rarely dropped. "Huge gratitude to all of them", he told the Interfax news agency.

A planned central Moscow protest - which did not receive permission from state officials - will still go ahead tomorrow, Vaessen said, with organisers promising "not to rest" until those who organised Golunov's detention are brought to justice.

In a statement announcing Golunov's freedom, Meduza's leader thanked what they called "an unprecedented worldwide solidarity campaign" of journalists and others who are committed to free speech.

In Canada, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters, "We are following the current situation in Russian Federation very closely and with great interest and attention".

In Moscow and other cities, hundreds of protesters have taken part in demonstrations all week calling for Golunov's release.

In identical statements published on their front pages, the three newspapers said Golunov's prosecution was an act of intimidation against Russian society and demanded an investigation into the policemen who had detained him.

A team of investigative journalists would continue to try to establish who was behind his persecution, they added.

Despite the victory, Meduza says the work to prevent anyone else being treated in a similar way has only just begun.

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