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Moscow Court Upholds Extension Of Pretrial Detention For Officer Suspected In Journalist's Arrest

Igor Lyakhovets in a Moscow court in January
Igor Lyakhovets in a Moscow court in January

The Moscow City Court has upheld a lower court decision to extend the pretrial arrest of the former chief of the Moscow police's illegal drugs department, Igor Lyakhovets, one of several former police officers suspected in the illegal apprehension of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov last year.

The court ruling on October 7 upholds the Basmanny district court's September ruling to prolong Lyakhovets' pretrial detention until December 7.

Lyakhovets said at the hearing that his case was politically motivated and "there are no grounds to keep me in custody."

Lyakhovets and his four former subordinates -- Akbar Sergaliyev, Roman Feofanov, Maksim Umetbayev, and Denis Konovalov -- were arrested in late January.

They were charged with abuse of service duties, falsification of evidence, and the illegal handling of drugs.

Konovalov, who is charged with forging documents related to the probe, was transferred to house arrest from a detention center in February after he made a deal with investigators and testified in court that his former boss, Lyakhovets, had ordered him to plant drugs on the reporter.

Investigators said on September 2 that the suspects had been additionally charged with "committing a crime in an organized group," which may lead to even stricter sentences.

The 37-year-old Golunov, who works for the Latvia-based information outlet Meduza, was arrested in June 2019 in Moscow for allegedly attempting to sell illegal drugs.

He was released several days later after the charges were dropped following a public outcry. The case sparked an investigation into his detainment and also into why Golunov suffered bruises, cuts, a concussion, and a broken rib during the ordeal.

Russian Journalist Released After Police Drop Charges
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In mid-July, police officers who detained Golunov were fired, along with their supervisor, for violating the journalist's rights.

After Golunov’s release, Russian President Vladimir Putin fired Major General Yury Devyatkin, the head of the Moscow police department's drug control directorate, and Major General Andrei Puchkov, the police chief in Moscow's West administrative region, over the case.

Authorities announced in November that the case had been classified, a decision harshly criticized by Golunov's lawyers, who called the move an attempt to cover up the "wrongful arrest" of their client.

In a rare move, the Prosecutor-General's Office of Moscow's Western District apologized to Golunov in February for his illegal prosecution.

With reporting by TASS and Kommersant

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