Russian parliament speaker concerned about journalist’s case

The speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament on Tuesday raised concerns about a drug dealing case against a prominent investigative journalist.

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Ivan Golunov, who works for the independent website Meduza, was stopped by police on a Moscow street last Thursday and taken to custody where he was beaten and denied a lawyer for more than 12 hours, according to his defense team. He was transferred to house arrest following a public outpouring of support including high-profile journalists working for state-owned media.

Valentina Matviyenko, who is Russia’s third most senior official after the president and prime minister, on Tuesday voiced concerns about the criminal inquiry, which she described as a “really bad story.” She stopped short of saying, however, what made her think this.

Matviyenko said she spoke to the prosecutor general, who promised to take the case under his personal control.

Golunov rose to prominence with his investigations into corruption at the Moscow City Hall, the crime-ridden funeral industry and murky food markets.

The circumstances of the journalist’s arrest have alarmed the media community.

In an apparent attempt to portray Golunov as a professional drug dealer, police on Friday released several photos, reportedly from Golunov’s home, of what appeared to be a drugs lab. They later retracted the statement, saying that the pictures were taken elsewhere. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday dismissed the incident as a mere mistake.

Journalists and others have been picketing the headquarters of the Moscow police department for five days. More than 20,000 people have said online that they will take to the streets on Wednesday, a public holiday, to protest Golunov’s detention.

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