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Pretrial Detention Extended For Ex-Moscow Police Officers Suspected In Illegal Arrest Of Journalist

Investigative journalist Ivan Golunov attends a court hearing in Moscow in November
Investigative journalist Ivan Golunov attends a court hearing in Moscow in November

A court in Moscow has extended the pretrial arrests for three former police officers suspected in the illegal apprehension of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov last year, a case that sparked a public outcry over wrongdoing by police.

The Basmanny district court on September 4 ruled that Akbar Sergaliyev, Roman Feofanov, and Maksim Umetbayev must remain in pretrial detention at least until December 7.

A decision to prolong their detention for the fourth former police officer in the case, Igor Lyakhovets, will be made separately because his lawyer did not show up at the September 4 hearing.

The former police officers, along with a fifth colleague, Denis Konovalov, were detained on January 29 as suspects in the high-profile case.

A day later, 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 in Moscow for allegedly attempting to sell illegal drugs.

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

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

With reporting by TASS and Interfax
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