The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on authorities in the Russian republic of Daghestan to release journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiev and drop all charges against him.
Gadzhiev, the religious affairs editor of the independent weekly Chernovik, was detained on June 14 on charges of financing terrorism.
He has been held since in pre-trial detention, the CPJ said in a statement on April 14.
On March 27, authorities filed new charges against Gadzhiev, accusing him of participation in an extremist organization, according to Mairbek Agaev, the editor in chief of Chernovik.
Agaev told the CPJ he learned about the new charges on April 14 and said he believed they were in retaliation for Gadzhiev’s journalism.
He also said he believed authorities “invented” the new charges because “the first case is falling apart due to lack of evidence.”
If convicted of participating in an extremist organization, Gadzhiev could face up to 10 years in prison under the Russian criminal code. If convicted on the original terrorism charges, he could face another 20 years.
“Authorities in Daghestan should stop cooking up new charges against journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiev and instead should release him immediately,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.
She added that with the coronavirus spreading in the Northern Caucasus it will inevitably hit its prisons and further endanger Gadzhiev’s life.
The CPJ last month wrote an open letter to world leaders urging them to immediately release all journalists behind bars amid the coronavirus pandemic.