NEW YORK — In response to news reports that Kyrgyz authorities on Wednesday deported investigative journalist Bolot Temirov to Russia, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement of condemnation:
“The deportation of Bolot Temirov, a Kyrgyz citizen and arguably Central Asia’s leading anticorruption investigator, is an outrageously irresponsible and vindictive move, which could put his life in danger amid Russia’s mobilization in its war on Ukraine,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Kyrgyz authorities must immediately reverse this measure, which caps months of judicial harassment of Temirov and his outlet, Temirov Live, and cease harassing and obstructing the work of independent news outlets.”
In an appeals hearing on Wednesday, November 23, a city court in Bishkek, the capital, upheld a lower court decision, which acquitted Temirov of charges of drugs possession and illegal border crossing but convicted him of using forged documents to obtain a Kyrgyz passport and did not apply a punishment as the statute of limitations had expired, media reports said. However, the appeals court ordered Temirov, who has both Russian and Kyrgyz citizenship, to be deported as an additional punishment for the forged documents charge.
Temirov was taken into custody immediately after the decision and placed aboard a plane bound for Moscow, his lawyer, Bakyt Avtandil, told CPJ by messaging app.
Avtandil said the journalist’s deportation was unlawful since Temirov has Kyrgyz citizenship and thus cannot be deported under Kyrgyz law, and because no “additional punishment” should be applied to a charge for which the statute of limitations has expired. He said that their biggest fear is that Temirov, who is of conscription age, could now be mobilized to fight in Russia’s war on Ukraine.
CPJ called Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs for comment, but the call was not answered.
Police arrested Temirov in January in a raid on Temirov Live’s offices in which the journalist said officers planted drugs on him. Temirov denied the drugs and other subsequent charges against him and linked them to two anticorruption investigations Temirov Live published into the family of the head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security days before each set of charges.