New York, April 21, 2022 – Kyrgyzstan authorities should drop all the charges against journalist Bolot Temirov and allow him to work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On Tuesday, April 19, police investigators in Bishkek, the capital, summoned Temirov and charged him with allegedly forging documents and illegally crossing the country’s border, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
Temirov, founder of the YouTube-based investigative outlet Temirov Live, told CPJ that he denied the charges, and said he believed they were retaliation for a video he published on April 18 about corruption allegations involving the family of the head of Kyrgyzstan’s security services.
Previously, in January, police charged Temirov with drug possession after a raid on his office, as CPJ documented at the time. The journalist told CPJ that the police had planted drugs on him during that raid.
“Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies appear intent on silencing journalist Bolot Temirov for nothing other than his tenacity in covering allegations of corruption,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna. “Authorities should drop all charges against Temirov, stop their campaign of legal harassment, and allow Temirov Live and its staff to work without fear of retaliation.”
Police claim that, while investigating Temirov for drug possession, they found that the journalist had falsified documents when applying for a Kyrgyz passport in 2008 and then used that passport to cross into and out of the country more than 50 times, according to those news reports.
Temirov, who was born in Kyrgyzstan and moved to Russia at age seven, told CPJ that he obtained the passport legally using his Kyrgyz birth certificate.
At a press conference on Thursday, a Bishkek police spokesperson said the new charges will be prosecuted alongside the narcotics charge, those news reports said. The spokesperson said that the investigations into each charge had been completed and would be passed to the courts once Temirov has familiarized himself with them.
If convicted on the drug and forgery charges, Temirov could face 10 to 15 years in prison, according to Edil Eraliev, a lawyer coordinating the journalist’s defense, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
He added that the charges were “absurd,” and that the statute of limitations for the alleged offenses had long since expired.
CPJ emailed the Interior Ministry of Kyrgyzstan and the head of the security services at the State Committee for National Security for comment, but did not immediately receive any replies.
[Editors’ note: This article has been changed to correct a reference to the potential prison sentence if Temirov is convicted on drug and forgery charges.]