Northwestern Law Center to represent journalist removed from Kyrgyzstan

Bolot Temirov, a Kyrgyzstani human rights defender and prominent journalist, has been unable to return to Kyrgyzstan since he was forcibly removed to Russia last November.

Today, on World Press Freedom Day, the Center for International Human Rights (CIHR) at Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law is announcing that CIHR will represent Temirov along with local counsel in Kyrgyzstan in his case alleging wrongful prosecution in Kyrgyzstan and illegal deportation to Russia.

Despite being a Kyrgyz national born in Kyrgyzstan, Temirov was falsely charged with forging documents and forcibly deported from Kyrgyzstan to Russia last year after he exposed corruption in the Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security.

"A free press is a human right that must be protected by the rule of law. The arbitrary arrest and deportation of Mr. Temirov is an abuse of process to punish and deter an independent journalist," said Juliet Sorensen, a clinical professor of law at Northwestern who is affiliated with the CIHR.

Temirov has received accolades for his anti-corruption work in the past: In 2021, he was awarded the International Anti-Corruption Champions Award by the U.S. Department of State for his work to investigate and expose corruption in Kyrgyzstan.

In January 2022, Temirov released an investigative report about the head of the Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security. Days later, the Kyrgyz police searched Temirov's offices, ostensibly for drugs. Three months after that, he was charged with having forged documents to obtain Kyrgyz citizenship.

On November 23, 2022, the Bishkek City Court ruled that Temirov should be expelled from the country as a "foreigner." He was escorted to the airport by plain clothes police, while law enforcement lied to his attorneys about his whereabouts, then forced onto a flight to Moscow, where he remains to this day.

A deportation from Kyrgyzstan carries a five-year ban on re-entry, and Temirov is unable to return home. Despite having been born in Kyrgyzstan and holding a Kyrgyz passport, Temirov was deported to Russia.

Like many people in Kyrgyzstan and post-Soviet countries, Temirov held a Soviet passport prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union and now holds a Russian passport in addition to his Kyrgyz passport. As a natural-born citizen of the Kyrgyz Republic, he has a right to be free from forced removal to the Russian Federation and his deportation is unlawful under international law.

Temirov's wrongful prosecution has been condemned by numerous interest groups and watchdogs including Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, the International Partnership for Human Rights, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and Civil Rights Defenders.

Some members of the Kyrgyz Parliament, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and the U.S. State Department have also condemned the prosecution.

Though Temirov is not being forcibly detained while in Russia, he is not the only prominent journalist who has recently faced wrongful arrest. Evan Gershkovich, an American reporter for the Wall Street Journal, is currently imprisoned in Russia, where he has been accused of spying by the Russian government.

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