Russian police drop charges against investigative reporter Golunov after outcry

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"I will be doing investigations because I have to justify the trust of those who supported me", he said.

Russian authorities have abruptly dropped drug charges against an investigative journalist and released him, apparently in response to an outcry from the media and the public.

Those who spoke out against Golunov's detention included the Committee to Protect Journalists, which noted Russia's "long history of politically motivated allegations against reporters". More than 20,000 people signed an online pledge to march in the capital on Wednesday, a public holiday, to protest Golunov's arrest.

Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said in a statement on Tuesday that the case against Mr Golunov had been dropped because there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.

The interior minister said he will be asking President Vladimir Putin to sack the senior Moscow police official responsible for counter-drug investigations as well as other officials responsible for the scandal.

The three leading daily newspapers - Vedomosti, Kommersant and RBK - all carried the same headline on Monday in a rare show of solidarity: "I am/We are Ivan Golunov".

The case sparked outrage in Russian Federation and overseas over what critics slammed as the impunity and corruption of law enforcement agencies.

He was cheered by several hundred reporters and onlookers outside a police building.

"I'm happy, I'm crying".

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.

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"An unbelievable event has happened", the reporter said. "Am I sleeping? Did this really happen?"

"He will be released from house arrest today, and the charges against him will be dropped."

Oyub Titiyev, a civil rights activist in Chechnya, was arrested in 2018 on charges of possessing marijuana that he said were planted by authorities.

He was stopped by police on a Moscow street on Thursday and taken into custody, where his defence team says he was beaten and denied a lawyer for more than 12 hours.

"I believe that every citizen's rights must be protected, no matter their professional affiliation", he said.

Ivan Golunov sits inside a defendants' cage during a hearing at a Moscow court.

Before the police backed down, almost 25,000 people had signed up to a Facebook page expressing their intention to take part in a protest march on Wednesday in solidarity with Mr. Golunov.

The worldwide media watchdog Reporters Without Borders hailed what it called the "historic mobilisation of the Russian civil society". "Now folks who tried to plan him up want to be judged". We are glad that the authorities listened to society. Anchor Irada Zeynalova of pro-Kremlin channel NTV had said that if there were no drugs on the journalist then "those who created this insane situation must be punished", the BBC reported. Famous Russian artists, journalists, rappers and comedians joined a video denouncing Golunov's arrest. The prominent anti-corruption campaigner, Alexey Navalny on Tuesday published a report in which he claimed an FSB officer involved in a corrupt attempt to take over a funeral business had targeted Golunov for investigating it.

During his two decades in power, Putin has silenced most of his critics and sought to muzzle the media. The press freedom watchdog said it would remain mobilised for other journalists jailed in Russian Federation.

The Meduza website is based in Latvia to circumvent censorship, but some of its journalists live in Russian Federation.

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