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Blogger Says She Fled Kyrgyzstan Fearing For Her Safety

Yulia Barabina (right) and three members of the election team of presidential candidate Abdil Segizbaev (left) had their homes searched and electronic devices confiscated.

A well-known blogger, who left Kyrgyzstan for an unspecified country after her apartment in Bishkek was searched, says she was "pushed out of the country."

Yulia Barabina and three members of the election team of presidential candidate Abdil Segizbaev were questioned by officers of the State Committee for National Security (UKMK) after their homes were searched on February 3 and their electronic devices confiscated.

Segizbaev, a former chief of the UKMK who strongly criticized incumbent President Sadyr Japarov during the recent election, was arrested and placed in pretrial detention on corruption charges two weeks after Japarov was declared the winner on January 10.

Barabina told the Kaktus news agency on February 15 that UKMK officers had explained to her and members of Segizbaev's team that the searches and the questioning were linked to a complaint filed by unknown individuals about the content of Barabina's Facebook blog, Pravdorub, where she and her colleagues publish their journalistic materials.

According to the UKMK, Barabina said, the complaint alleged that some of the materials in the blog were "inciting ethnic and religious hatred."

However, Barabina said the complaint appeared to be politically motivated, as the investigators' questions were not about her blog's materials but about comments by unknown individuals posted under them.

Yulia Barabina
Yulia Barabina

Barabina's blog was critical of former presidents of the Central Asian state, as well as Japarov.

The blog's investigative materials also targeted corruption among officials, including former Customs Service official Raimbek Matraimov, who was placed on the U.S. Magnitsky sanctions list for his involvement in the illegal funneling of hundreds of millions of dollars abroad.

Barabina said she intended to return to Kyrgyzstan as soon as "it is safe for me to come back."

Kyrgyzstan has been in crisis since parliamentary elections in October led to protests that triggered the toppling of the government and the resignation of then-President Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

Japarov was among several prominent politicians freed from prison by protesters during the unrest.

He had been serving a 10-year sentence for hostage taking during a protest against a mining operation in northeast Kyrgyzstan in October 2013. He has steadfastly denied the charge.

The 52-year-old's landslide victory came in an election that international observers said "generally respected" fundamental freedoms even though the vote was not "fully fair."

With reporting by Kaktus