Indicators of Political Motivation Permeate Case In opposition to Kyrgyz Investigative Journalist

by OCCRP and Kloop 8July 2022 Tweet thisShare this on Fb DONATE Kyrgyz authorities allege

Kyrgyz authorities allege Bolot Temirov is a drug consumer and used falsified identification paperwork. However case information obtained by reporters counsel a high-level effort led by the GKNB safety company to silence him.

To his tens of hundreds of viewers, Bolot Temirov is a crusading investigative journalist waging an uphill battle in opposition to corruption in his native Kyrgyzstan. He and his investigative video outlet Temirov LIVE have devoted themselves to exposing corruption on this small Central Asian nation.

However to the Kyrgyz authorities, he’s a foreigner engaged in provocations in opposition to the nation’s authorities. And that isn’t simply invective; they accuse him of submitting fraudulent paperwork to acquire his home and international passports

Kyrgyz residents can have home passports, used as identification paperwork, and international passports for worldwide journey. Temirov is accused of fraudulently acquiring each.

after which of utilizing them for worldwide journey.

“I think about all these legal circumstances to be dreamed up out of skinny air,” Temirov advised OCCRP and Kloop.

However the penalty he faces — as much as as a lot as 20 years in jail — is extreme, and the result of his trial is changing into a widely-watched indicator of Kyrgyzstan’s dedication to press freedom.

His prosecution started earlier this 12 months when, as Temirov says, he angered the top of Kyrgyzstan’s highly effective GKNB safety company by investigating his household’s enterprise dealings.

The GKNB head, Kamchybek Tashiev, denies that the journalist’s investigations into his household’s enterprise have something to do with the case, and has insisted that his company was barely concerned.

However in a brand new investigation, journalists from OCCRP and its Kyrgyz associate, Kloop, have analyzed paperwork from the case in opposition to Temirov and located a number of pink flags. The findings strongly counsel that his prosecution represents the deliberate concentrating on of an outspoken journalist, and never — because the official narrative would have it — the routine pursuit of a legal matter.

In keeping with the police, probably the most severe allegations in opposition to Temirov had been uncovered throughout an preliminary investigation right into a cannabis possession cost. In reality, nonetheless, the paperwork present that the GKNB had requested details about Temirov’s home passport and monitored his travels months earlier. The absence of a proper legal case in opposition to Temirov on the time raises questions on why the authorities had been trying into him.

Even the unique justification for a January raid on the Temirov LIVE workplace, when a small bag of cannabis was discovered on Temirov, exhibits indicators of being falsified or manipulated.

The state of affairs matches a sample noticed in two different latest circumstances. After making influential enemies in Kyrgyz politics, a rights activist and a preferred blogger had been each charged with stunning crimes that will do injury to their reputations. Each additionally confronted extra expenses, together with for allegedly falsifying paperwork.

Leila Nazgul Seiitbek, a Kyrgyz lawyer and rights activist who acquired asylum in Austria after dealing with politically motivated expenses, stated that Kyrgyz authorities sometimes open an preliminary cost to take purpose at an individual’s status or as an excuse to start a fishing expedition.

“As soon as they’ve the decree on initiating the legal case, they’ve wider authority and may request all types of issues,” she advised OCCRP.

Tashiev and President Sadyr Japarov got here to energy in late 2020 within the wake of a preferred rebellion in opposition to the outcomes of a controversial parliamentary election. Rights teams and political scientists have pointed to a number of violations of democratic procedures throughout that tumultuous time. They’ve additionally warned of a subsequent deterioration in Kyrgyz democracy, together with the adoption of a brand new structure that locations extra energy within the president’s arms, laws to restrict freedom of speech, and an increase in intolerant populist activism.

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov meets with Kamchybek Tashiev

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Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov (L) meets with Kamchybek Tashiev, the highly effective chairman of the State Committee on Nationwide Safety who helped carry him to energy in 2020.

In opposition to this backdrop, Temirov’s prosecution will probably be a bellwether, rights teams say.

“The court docket case that’s now underway in opposition to Temirov is a check of Kyrgyzstan’s dedication to rule of legislation, to due course of, and to media freedom,” stated Gulnoza Stated, a program coordinator for the Committee to Defend Journalists.

The Kyrgyz authorities, together with Tashiev, didn’t reply to questions by OCCRP and Kloop however in different media denied any impropriety.

A Historical past of Harassment

The legal circumstances pursued in opposition to Temirov this 12 months should not the primary time he and his workforce have confronted stress from the authorities.

In October 2021, Temirov LIVE staffers started to note suspicious vehicles parked exterior their constructing. A number of months later, Temirov’s household found a hidden digital camera recording the lounge of their rented residence from behind the wallpaper. In keeping with Temirov, footage from that digital camera was utilized in propaganda movies in opposition to him later revealed on-line.

Most shockingly, sources stated a younger male who pursued a romantic relationship with one in every of Temirov LIVE’s feminine staff was a GKNB agent. Surreptitiously recorded footage of a sexual encounter between them was then used to blackmail her. That video, too, was revealed on-line.

However whereas the earlier harassment of Temirov LIVE appeared centered on surveilling or scaring the journalists, this 12 months started with a severe escalation.

On the night of January 22, Kyrgyz legislation enforcement raided the Temirov LIVE workplace. After forcing Temirov and his colleagues to lie face down on the ground, they raised him off the bottom, unbound his arms, and instructed him to empty his pockets. Out got here a small cellophane packet of one thing inexperienced, later decided to be cannabis.

“They planted it!” Temirov shouted because the police dragged him out.

The authorities then added three extra expenses. They accused Temirov, who, like many in Kyrgyzstan, can be a citizen of Russia, of falsifying paperwork to obtain his home and worldwide Kyrgyz passports. Based mostly on that declare, additionally they charged him with unlawful border crossing when he traveled overseas.

A month later, an inside ministry investigator annulled Temirov’s passports.

🔗The Passport Case

Temirov was born in 1979 in Soviet Kyrgyzstan and says he’s a Kyrgyz citizen by birthright.

In 2001, whereas in graduate faculty in Moscow, Temirov acquired Russian citizenship. Whereas Kyrgyzstan locations some restrictions on twin citizenship, having a second passport is authorized.

In 2006, Temirov returned to Kyrgyzstan and took a job at a state-run TV channel. Two years later he acquired a Kyrgyz passport.

Prosecutors now allege this process was unlawful. They declare that, with the intention to obtain his passports, Temirov submitted paperwork truly belonging to different folks: a “navy ticket,” which certifies that a person served within the Kyrgyz armed forces, and a short lived ID, which is usually issued earlier than issuing a passport.

Temirov denies falsifying any paperwork.

Questions Concerning the Case

However for all of the power of the Kyrgyz authorities’ accusations, there are some severe points with the case courting again to the official begin of the investigation.

The January 22 raid on the Temirov LIVE workplace occurred after a younger lady named Aiperi Adyl kyzy filed a police grievance in opposition to Bolot Nazarov, a Kyrgyz poet who had labored with Temirov’s workforce and carried out their investigations as folks songs. She claimed that Nazarov had compelled her to take medicine, together with within the Temirov LIVE workplace. She additionally claimed that Nazarov advised her he acquired the narcotics from his boss, who was additionally named “Bolot,” and gave {a partially} correct description of the workplace itself.

That afternoon, the police questioned her and registered the knowledge in an official doc, writing that the alleged perpetrator was Bolot Nazarov.

After which one thing uncommon occurred. When police opened a legal case, they referred to the perpetrator as an “unknown individual by the identify of ‘Bolot’.”

“When investigators have each alternative to determine the perpetrator, they’re obliged to take action, in principle,” lawyer and rights activist Seiitbek advised OCCRP and Kloop. However, in observe, it doesn’t all the time occur if legislation enforcement has an curiosity in concealing his or her id, she added.

Roughly an hour-and-a-half later, the police interviewed Adyl kyzy once more, this time formally as a sufferer of a criminal offense. Although she offered some particulars in a different way, she by no means wavered in her declare that it was Nazarov who had pressured her to smoke marijuana.

As soon as the questioning concluded, the police issued a doc handing the case over to a gaggle of investigators. However as soon as once more, they described the alleged perpetrator as an “unknown” Bolot.

That is what might have given them grounds to focus on Temirov at his workplace that night.

In keeping with the police, the following passport expenses in opposition to Temirov grew from the drug case. Moreover, GKNB head Tashiev has claimed that his company was enjoying no important function.

However case paperwork definitively exhibit that the investigation started lengthy earlier than January — and that the GKNB was concerned from the start.

They present that the GKNB requested data on Temirov’s home passport two months earlier than Adyl kyzy ever went to the police. The case file features a November 23 letter despatched by the Ministry of Digital Improvement to the GKNB responding to a request the company had despatched for data on Temirov’s home passport.

Whereas the doc’s contents should not notably revelatory, its existence demonstrates that the GKNB was already taking purpose at Temirov’s citizenship even earlier than the raid and the legal case.

With no lively investigation in opposition to Temirov at the moment, there was no authorized rationale for Kyrgyz legislation enforcement — not to mention the GKNB, an company formally centered on defending nationwide safety — to analyze the journalist’s passport.

In keeping with Ermek Baibosunov, a Bishkek-based lawyer, Kyrgyz legislation enforcement officers want a stable purpose to surveil an individual.

Flight information included within the paperwork additionally present that the GKNB was surveilling Temirov lengthy earlier than the drug case. One doc registered him flying to Istanbul on Might 27, 2021, and famous that, after Temirov handed by passport management, the border brokers notified the company’s Fifth Division, which based on the media is chargeable for monitoring the media. (This was a month after Temirov LIVE revealed their first movies about Tashiev.)

Lastly, the paperwork present that the GKNB considered Temirov’s journalism as an inherent risk to the state. In a evaluation of the Temirov LIVE YouTube channel, they discovered that the movies had been “aimed toward discrediting the nation’s prime military-political management, which might enhance the potential for protest and negatively have an effect on the socio-political state of affairs.”

Agent Batur?

Different information not lined within the case paperwork additionally counsel GKNB involvement.

After Temirov’s arrest in January, he and his workforce turned their investigative lens on the raid of their workplace. By inspecting police footage, safety digital camera footage, and recordings made by journalists as police searched their workplace, they had been capable of reconstruct the raid and determine a number of questionable actions by legislation enforcement.

Most significantly, they discovered that two males — one in every of whom gave the impression to be neither a drug police officer nor a member of the Inside Ministry particular forces — had been coordinating the raid. The boys gave the impression to be receiving and making a number of calls on their cell phones all through the night, as in the event that they had been receiving directions and reporting again to somebody.

Initially, as officers approached the door of Temirov LIVE’s workplace, one of many two males instructed the police cameraman to attend earlier than getting into.

By the point he entered, the primary wave of officers had already compelled the journalists onto the bottom and spent round a minute inside, doubtlessly permitting somebody to plant the medicine on Temirov with out being caught on digital camera. (Additionally they confiscated the computer systems the place the Temirov LIVE workforce says they saved their very own safety digital camera footage, eradicating one other impartial supply of accountability.)

In a later evaluation, a Bellingcat journalist who helped Temirov LIVE with their investigation honed in on footage taken of a police officer’s cellular phone display. The telephone listed the caller as “Batur SNB S5.”

“SNB” is an previous abbreviation for the GKNB, whereas S5 seems to check with its fifth division.

After Temirov LIVE acquired their confiscated gear again from legislation enforcement at the beginning of July, additionally they found that on January 24, two days after the raid, somebody had gone by their computer systems. However investigators had been solely given a court docket order to look at the computer systems on January 28, making their actions unlawful, the journalists allege. The workforce notes that propaganda movies that includes information from their computer systems appeared on-line throughout that interval.

Conventional Techniques

The GKNB is probably the most highly effective safety construction in Kyrgyzstan and traces its lineage again to the notorious Soviet KGB.

In keeping with Erica Marat, an affiliate professor on the Nationwide Protection College in Washington, D.C., and an professional on legislation enforcement in former Soviet nations, the GKNB has all the time been politicized and often loyal to the federal government. In previous years, it has additionally arrested folks on trumped up or falsified expenses, and even killed regime opponents.

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In recent times, it has additionally taken purpose at civil society, she stated.

“They principally wish to silence [Temirov], however they’re additionally sending a bigger sign to the whole society: ‘Don’t take part in all these processes you name democratic,’” Marat advised OCCRP.

Bolot Temirov attends a court hearing in his case

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Bolot Temirov attends a court docket listening to in his case on June 24.

Even low-profile activists are generally focused. An activist from southern Kyrgyzstan, who requested anonymity for worry of attracting additional consideration from the safety company, stated that the GKNB tried to hack her Twitter account, seemingly in retaliation for her criticism of the Kyrgyz authorities’s dealing with of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally they tried to hint her down utilizing her telephone quantity, however her SIM card was registered to a different individual, she advised OCCRP. She discovered about it after that individual reached out to her by a colleague and let her know GKNB brokers had come visiting.

“It’s actually attention-grabbing that they weren’t chasing the actual influencers with giant numbers of followers. They had been chasing activists like us,” she stated.

However when the safety companies actually set their sights on an individual, they don’t often cease at social media. And infrequently their strategy is much like the one used in opposition to Bolot Temirov.

In Might 2020, the GKNB referred to as Kamil Ruziev, a veteran human rights activist from the northeastern metropolis of Karakol, in for a gathering. In keeping with him, the official purpose was to debate 4 petitions Ruziev had filed in opposition to the GKNB for failing to analyze a police officer who had beforehand threatened him.

In a dialog with OCCRP, Ruziev stated that when he arrived on the native GKNB department, the officers held him in a room, threatened and tortured him, and tried to power him to testify that he had falsified a physician’s be aware as a part of a earlier case. Ruziev says he didn’t give into their calls for.

Ruziev solely managed to get out of custody two days later, after declaring a starvation strike and experiencing a spike in his blood stress. Nearly instantly, he acquired phrase that he had been charged with falsifying paperwork again in March and in addition was being charged with defrauding the folks he assisted as a rights defender.

In keeping with Ruziev, prosecutors later dropped the fraud expenses after his accusers got here ahead and stated that GKNB officers had compelled them to make false accusations in opposition to him. However the doc falsification cost stays to at the present time.

🔗Psychiatry on a Corpse

Jolboldueva had constructed up a large following in her native Batken Area, probably the most distant a part of Kyrgyzstan. In early February, she got here into battle with Alikhan Uraimov, chief of workers of the presidential consultant to the area. He was caught on digital camera hitting her. Uraimov claimed Jolboldueva had provoked him, and she or he was in the end charged with “hooliganism.”

Then, in March, Jolboldueva recorded a neighborhood journalist, Arzygul Galymbetova, assembly with the regional governor and two buyers in a restaurant late at evening and revealed the video on-line. Galymbetova pressed expenses in opposition to Jolboldueva for violating her privateness and launched a video accusing her and one other blogger of inserting a curse on her. She died the next evening.

Medical experts concluded that Galymbetova died from an bronchial asthma assault. However then legislation enforcement did one thing unusual: They ordered a psychiatric analysis of her corpse. Once they discovered no indicators that the journalist suffered from psychiatric circumstances, investigators used testimony from her sister and witnesses to cost Jolboldueva with inflicting Galymbetova’s demise by negligence.

Quickly after her arrest, in a separate case Jolboldueva was charged with falsifying paperwork for allegedly faking the signature of a co-founder when registering her civic group Individuals’s Management “Batma-Bat.” She stays in custody.

Ruziev has no illusions about what is going on in Temirov’s case. He advised OCCRP that planting medicine on an individual or accusing them of inciting ethnic hatred are the simplest potential methods for legislation enforcement to launch legal circumstances in opposition to journalists and activists.

The GKNB might have been getting ready to make use of the latter strategy in opposition to Temirov as nicely. In its evaluation of Temirov LIVE’s movies, a GKNB colonel concluded: “We don’t exclude the chance that the above talked about publications comprise indicators and actions aimed toward public requires a violent seizure of energy and the fomentation of ethnic, nationwide, or interregional hatred.”