Top Kyrgyz investigative journalist on narcotics charge: police

DailyTimes  |  Jan 23, 2022

Bishkek: A renowned investigative journalist in ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan has been charged with possession of narcotics, police said Sunday, days after he released an investigation into the fuel business of a powerful political family.

Bolot Temirov, whose YouTube channel Temirov Live is known for its hard-hitting anti-corruption investigations, was taken into custody Saturday night after police raided the media outlet’s office. Around 200 supporters of Temirov including fellow journalists gathered outside the interior ministry on Sunday, with some calling for the minister’s resignation.In a statement Sunday, police in the Central Asian country’s capital Bishkek said Temirov and his colleague Bolot Nazarov had been arrested on a charge of “possessing illegal narcotics”. Temirov was charged and released following detention but is barred from leaving the country.

Nazarov is still being held, a police spokesman confirmed to AFP. In footage of the journalist filmed during his arrest, Temirov said he believed police had planted drugs in his pocket. The investigation comes after Temirov Live released a report on alleged profiteering in the fuel industry by a relative of Kamchibek Tashiyev, Kyrgyzstan’s security committee chief, who came to power alongside current president Sadyr Japarov during unrest in 2020.

Japarov said on Facebook Sunday he would ensure the case was “investigated fairly” but pledged support for Tashiyev, a long-term ally. “Kamchibek (Tashiyev) explained in detail … that the accusations against him were completely false.” Tashiyev during a Sunday press conference denied that his committee had influenced the investigation into Temirov and other employees of the channel, calling the investigation into his nephew’s fuel business “a lie”.“I have never been involved in corruption…that is my lifelong position,” Tashiyev said. Tashiyev accused Temirov’s colleague Nazarov of being “addicted” to narcotics and using a bong to smoke illicit substances without offering proof for the claim. Kyrgyzstan’s vast, oil-rich neighbour Kazakhstan has been rocked by political unrest that authorities there said has left 225 people dead after protests against an energy price hike began at the turn of the year.

But mountainous Kyrgyzstan has long been the region’s most politically volatile country, with three of the country’s six post-independence leaders forced out of office since 2005 amid street rallies over corruption, nepotism, and rigged votes.

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