A lawyer says a Russian blog editor accused of trying to extort a lawmaker in the Black Sea city of Sochi has been hospitalized after prosecutors reported he allegedly stabbed himself in the stomach.
Aleksandr Valov, the founder and editor in chief of the site BlogSochi, was arrested in January, charged with trying to extort 300,000 rubles ($5,300) from Yury Napso, a member of Russia's lower house of parliament.
Valov, who faces up to seven years in prison, has denied the charges and called them politically motivated retribution for him publishing a photo report of a beach property belonging to Napso’s brother.
Defense lawyer Aleksandr Popkov said on June 18 that a Sochi court had been scheduled to review new arguments to prolong Valov’s detention.
However, the prosecutor told the court that Valov had been hospitalized three days earlier after he had allegedly stabbed himself in the stomach, Popkov said.
“This all demands a careful investigation,” he said.
Despite his absence, the court ordered Valov’s detention extended by another day.
"And again, without any evidence of Valov's involvement in the crime," Popkov told RFE/RL.
During his arrest in January, Valov live-streamed a video showing police breaking down the door to his apartment, cutting off the electricity, and beating him.
Valov had clashed with authorities prior to his arrest. He and another BlogSochi reporter were sued by Napso for defamation, a case that Valov ended up losing.
BlogSochi also reported extensively on local corruption in the run-up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which ended up being the most expensive Winter Olympics in history.
The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists suggested the charges were politically motivated.
"Exposing political corruption is an important function of an independent press,” the organization’s deputy executive director, Robert Mahoney, said in a statement. “Valov should be released immediately and the charges against him dropped.”