Kyrgyz Police Arrest Journalist, Colleague Says Officers Planted Drugs on Him

Dozens of people protested on Sunday outside the interior ministry headquarters in Bishkek against the arrests of a poet and of an investigative journalist on drug charges that colleagues allege were politically motivated.

Temirov ArrestPolice arresting Bolot Temirov (Photo: Kloop)

Anti-drug police in Kyrgyzstan on Saturday arrested award-winning journalist Bolot Temirov after a raid on his independent news outlet TemirovLive, which focuses on exposing high-level corruption. They also took a well-known akyn — a traditional Kyrgyz improvisational poet — who collaborated with the TemirovLive into custody that same day.

During the raid, police confiscated several of TemirovLive’s computers.

Temirov has since been released on bail under order not to leave the country. The akyn, Bolot Nazarov, was placed under house arrest. 

As the raid was ongoing on Saturday, a TemirovLive employee said that police told the outlet’s staff that a woman had accused a person named Bolot of forcing her to take drugs, but that officers had actually planted a package of drugs on him during the raid.

“They told us all to lie on the floor and not to look up, and to put our hands behind our backs,” Aizhan Alymseitova told Kloop, OCCRP’s local partner, in the hallway outside the TemirovLive office in Bishkek. “They searched everyone, and told everyone to take everything out of their pockets. When they came to Bolot Temirov, they checked his back pocket and pulled out a small plastic packet.”

“They put it there themselves, and then pulled it out,” she said.

Police stated that they also discovered drugs on Nazarov during his arrest. However, on Sunday, Temirov told Kloop that the police had also planted drugs on the poet.

Aktilek Kaparov, another TemirovLive journalist, speculated that the raid must have been motivated by the outlet’s work. “For over a year we’ve been putting out investigations about top officials in the country,” he said.

TemirovLive’s latest investigation, about a corruption scheme involving the head of Kyrgyzstan’s security services, Kamchybek Tashiev, was published on Jan. 20

After Temirov’s detention, his lawyer published a video in which the journalist stated that TemirovLive had received threats shortly before the investigation’s release and that there had been attempts to break into their online accounts. 

Temirov is no stranger to intimidation. In January 2020, he was beaten by three men after publishing an investigation about a former top official in the customs service, Raimbek Matraimov. Temirov accused Matraimov of being behind the attack.

Last year, Temirov was awarded the U.S. State Department’s inaugural “Anti-Corruption Champion” award.

Nazarov has become famous in Kyrgyzstan for performing TemirovLive’s investigations as traditional folk songs in the Kyrgyz language.

This story has been updated with the arrest of Nazarov, the release of Temirov, and the protests in Bishkek.