Russian Journalist Released After Police Drop Charges

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Russia's interior minister has said all charges against an investigative journalist arrested on suspicion of drug dealing have been dropped.

Ivan Golunov, a reporter with independent media outlet Meduza, walked out of the gates of a Moscow police building to cheers from waiting journalist and wept as he thanked supporters.

Ivan Golunov was detained on June 6 in the center of Moscow.

Golunov's case bears similarities to Titiyev's, though the latter was sentenced for alleged drug possession.

A file on the case had been sent to criminal investigators, Mr Kolokoltsev said.

Ivan Golunov, an investigative reporter of the Internet resource Meduza, the criminal case against him on suspicion of drug trafficking was dismissed, has said he will continue investigative activity.

But the case struck a nerve in Russian Federation as emblematic of the lawlessness and corruption in the country's law enforcement and officials that has flourished under Putin.

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In a highly unusual move, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, the interior minister, announced the charge against Ivan Golunov was being dropped due to lack of evidence.

Kolokoltsev said he would seek President Vladimir Putin's permission to sack the head of a Moscow police department and another senior official in charge of drug control in the Russian capital.

In a joint statement, they said evidence against Mr. Golunov was shaky, cast doubt over the legality of his detention, and demanded a review of police behaviour.

Journalists and activists reacted with joy as thousands of supporters planned to rally in Moscow after days of smaller demonstrations.

Director-general of Meduza Galina Timchenko told the news agency Interfax: "I am happy, I am crying".

"It be correct incredible data", Russian opposition chief Alexei Navalny acknowledged on Twitter.

Indeed, the Golunov case sparked a wave of solidarity rare in Russian society, with support from independent newspapers to state media, going through artists and even some high level politicians.

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The Moscow court has placed the journalist under house arrest until August 7, meanwhile the case has sparked an worldwide outcry. He says he was beaten in detention and had to receive hospital treatment.

The tests carried out at the request of the courts did not reveal any trace of drugs in his blood and none of the bags seized bore his fingerprints, according to his lawyers.

While welcoming Mr. Golunov's release, a spokeswoman for the European Union on foreign affairs said the trend in Russian Federation with regard to media freedom "remains worrying".

Officers acknowledged they had found the drug mephedrone in his bag and more treatment and weighing scales in a search of his home.

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

Since Friday, Russians have held one-person pickets in front of Moscow's police headquarters - the only form of protest that does not require prior approval from Russian authorities.

Global press freedom organisations were quick to take up the call. But Golunov as he walked free said he would prefer supporters spend time with "loved ones and family".

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In the same vein, the organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) highlighted on Twitter a "historical mobilization of civil society" in Russian Federation.