MOSCOW: A lawyer for a Russian journalist detained on charges of drug dealing has filed a complaint that accuses police of using violence against the prominent reporter, a human rights group said on Sunday.

Police refuted claims that Ivan Golunov was beaten after his Thursday arrest; his lawyers said he may have suffered a concussion and rib fractures.

Golunov, who has denied using or possessing drugs, was examined in a hospital on Saturday and found to have abrasions on his back and a bruise around one eye. A court released him into house arrest later in the day.

The complaint lawyer Olga Dinze lodged with Russia’s Investigative Committee alleges the journalist was subjected to “unmotivated physical violence” while in custody, Pavel Chikov, the head of human rights group Agora head, said in a post on the Telegram messaging service.

The case has attracted wide attention in Russia and abroad, reflecting concerns Golunov might have been arrested because of his work. Topics he covered for the Meduza website include on unscrupulous lenders evicting people from their residences and an organisation’s alleged attempts to take over the Russian funeral business.

Protesters called for his release during rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg. A small group also demonstrated in New York City to show support for Golunov on Saturday, when the US Embassy in Moscow argued for his release.

“We join the Russian media community and call for the release of Ivan Golunov, and conducting a thorough and open investigation of this case,” the embassy tweeted.

“Like any other journalist, Golunov should not be persecuted due to his professional activities.” Suspicions that Golunov may have been set up have been bolstered by an array of misinformation on the case.

Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2019