Politically targeted Kyrgyz journalist Bolot Temirov has been acquitted of criminal charges, but prosecutors nonetheless are continuing to pursue the dubious case against him.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Geneva reports that Temirov was acquitted of two charges in September. Judges said the charges were unproven and the investigation was biased. Though Temirov was found guilty on a third count, no punishment was imposed because the statute of limitations had expired, the Observatory said. He is appealing this conviction; it is not clear how he could have been convicted on an expired case.
Temirov’s ordeal began on Jan. 22, when police raided the office of his YouTube news channel Temirov Live in the capital city of Bishkek. Masked men snatched computer equipment, documents and videos. Authorities said they found marijuana, though Temirov’s wife Makhabat Tazhibek Kyzy told WNN she personally witnessed the men plant the drugs in his pocket.
The prominent investigative journalist was arrested after publishing an article alleging relatives of Kyrgyzstan’s top intelligence official improperly received about US$465,000 in an oil export deal. According to media reports, the head of the State Committee for National Security (UKMK) called the article “blatant lies.”
In addition to drug possession, Temirov also was charged with falsifying a document to free him from military service, forging documents to obtain a Kyrgyz passport, and traveling to and from Kyrgyzstan illegally. Interestingly, he has not been charged with or sued for libel for publishing incorrect information.
The General Prosecutor’s Office has appealed Temirov’s acquittal. This is permitted under Kyrgyzstan’s legal system because prosecutors are acting as a plaintiff in the case, the Observatory said.
“For nearly a year now law enforcement agencies, notably the Bishkek police and prosecutor’s office, have come up every time with new motives and trumped-up accusations against Temirov in order to sanction him,” an Observatory spokesperson told WNN. “This in itself is evidence of a pattern of harassment.”
“Fighting corruption is not a crime, but a legitimate and crucial struggle in favor of common good,” the spokesperson said. “We are appalled by the judicial cases targeting Temirov as an attempt to silence his human rights work. We call on Kyrgyz authorities to immediately end all forms of harassment against him.”
Appearing at the World Justice Forum in The Hague in June, Tazhibek Kyzy called her husband’s arrest “absurd.” “We will keep on going and keep fighting,” she said through a interpreter in an interview with WNN. “Only death can stop us.”