Kyrgyzstan: Well-known journalist prosecuted for drug possession

Kyrgyzstan: Well-known journalist prosecuted for drug possession

A journalist-investigator, well known in Kyrgyzstan for his investigations into corruption cases, has been charged with “drug possession”, police said on Sunday, a few days after reporting on a powerful political family.

The case raises concerns about a media crackdown by the new president of the former Central Asian republic, Sadir Zaparov, whose tenure has already been marked by the arrests of leading political figures and increased checks on human rights groups.

Bolot Temirov was taken into custody on Saturday night, after a police raid on the offices of his channel on the YouTube platform.

About 200 of his supporters, including several of his colleagues, gathered in front of the Interior Ministry headquarters on Sunday; some demanded that the minister resign.

In a press release issued the same day, Biskek police in the capital said Mr Temirov and his colleague Bolot Nazarov had been arrested and were being prosecuted for “illegal drug possession”.

They were released, but were barred from leaving the country.

In a video recorded at the time of his arrest, Bolot Temirov said he believed police had planted drugs in his pocket.

The Norwegian Helsinki Commission, a human rights NGO, took to Twitter to demand that the case be investigated expeditiously, “to avoid any speculation that the authorities are suppressing top-level corruption media.”

The arrest and the indictment of the journalist follow a report aired on his YouTube channel on allegations of bribery by a relative of Kamchibek Tasiyev, the head of the Kyrgyz Security Committee, who took office, such as and the current head of state, after the 2020 riots.

For his part, President Zaparov on Sunday assured that he would ensure that the investigation was “fair”, but at the same time promised to support his longtime ally Tassiev.

“Kamchibek (Tasiyev) has explained in detail (…) that the charges against him are completely non-existent,” he said.

During a press conference, Mr. Tassiev denied that the Commission of Inquiry, which he heads, had influenced the police investigation into Bolot Temirov.

“I have never been involved in corruption (…) this is the position I have chosen all my life,” he added.

Kyrgyzstan, with a population of about 6.5 million, is the most politically unstable country in the region. Three of the six figures who ruled the country after independence when the former USSR fell more than 30 years ago were forced to relinquish power after 2005, following mass mobilizations against corruption, nepotism and electoral fraud. .

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