Rally against illegal prosecution of journalists, activists begins in Moscow
MOSCOW. June 23 (Interfax) - An authorized rally under the slogan "Society is demanding justice" against political reprisals, which is scheduled amid the prosecution of Meduza reporter Ivan Golunov, has begun on Sakharov Avenue in Moscow.
The rally began at 5:20 p.m. on Sunday and is under way on the external side of Akademika Sakharova Avenue, an Interfax correspondent reported.
Moscow police have increased security measures in the area of the rally. Several dozens of officers of riot police, the Russian National Guard, and police are patrolling the cordoned area.
Several hundreds of people are attending the rally on Sakharov Avenue with banners, posters, and flags, while other people are still passing through metal detector frames at the far end of the avenue after the start of the action.
The Russian Libertarian party and the independent Trade Union of Journalists have organized the rally.
"The civil society has achieved the release of only one innocent person, while thousands of other activists are still imprisoned in fabricated cases. The problem, which Ivan Golunov faced, is systemic. We are demanding the termination of the cases against the New Greatness, Network, [post-graduate student of Moscow State University] Azat Miftakhov, [Open Russia member] Anastasia Shevchenko and other political prisoners," according to the announcement of the event.
The declared number of participants is up to 20,000.
Similar rallies will be held in St. Petersburg, Khabarovsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Kaliningrad, Krasnodar, Novosibirsk, Ulyanovsk, Omsk, Kazan, Novokuznetsk, Rostov-on-Don, and Samara on June 23.
Golunov, a correspondent of the Latvia-based Russian-language online media outlet Meduza, was detained by police officers on Moscow's Tsvetnoi Boulevard on June 6.
The Moscow police department reported finding drugs on Golunov and in his apartment. The journalist was charged with an attempt to sell a large amount of drugs. The Moscow Nikulinsky District Court on June 8 ordered his house arrest.
Golunov was released on Tuesday, June 11, after a broad public campaign in his defense. The charges against him were dropped due to absence of evidence of a crime.
The journalist said in court he considers himself innocent and links his prosecution to his reports and said the drugs had been planted on him. Law enforcement agencies are looking into the actions of police officers, who detained the journalist.
The unauthorized rally in defense of Golunov was held in downtown Moscow on June 12. According to official police reports, about 1,200 people attended the event, and over 200 were detained.
The authorized rally under the slogan "Law and justice for all" was held on Sakharov Avenue a week ago, on June 16. The protest was arranged by chairman of the Moscow Union of Journalists Pavel Gusev, chairman of the Russian Union of Journalists Vladimir Solovyov, and journalist and member of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council Yekaterina Vinokurova.
The rally was initially planned as an action in support of Golunov, but after the charges against the journalist were dropped the organizers have changed the slogan. According to police and organizers, the rally was held without any incidents and was attended by between about 1,600 and 2,000 people.