BISHKEK -- Authorities in Bishkek have charged prominent investigative journalist Bolot Temirov with "possessing illegal narcotics," hours after conducting a search of his office during which he said security forces put illegal narcotics in his pocket.
The charge announced by the police on January 23 came after Temirov released an investigation into the business of a powerful politician.
Temirov was detained late on January 22 after the police raided his office. He was released on bail hours later amid a protest outside the Interior Ministry by journalists, human rights advocates, and activists calling for his release.
A police statement said Temirov and his colleague, Bolot Nazarov, had been arrested on a charge of drug possession.
Temirov was charged and released following detention but is barred from leaving the country. Nazarov is still being held, a police spokesman said.
Security forces conducted the investigation on January 22 at the office of the founder of the YouTube channel Temirov Live, which had launched a report about President Sadyr Japarov and the head of the State Committee for National Security, Kamchybek Tashiev.
Earlier, lawyer Nurbek Toktakunov told reporters that he was trying to find out the reason Temirov had been detained. According to Toktakunov, investigators said that Temirov was being questioned as a witness.
Toktakunov told RFE/RL that Temirov had not been charged but was not released.
"We don't understand what they want," the lawyer said.
Another lawyer, Nurbek Koktakunov, said Temirov had been charged with a drug offense.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee said on Twitter that the authorities must investigate claims that the police planted marijuana on Temirov.
Temirov said as he was being taken away that during a search security officers planted drugs in his back pocket and all computers were confiscated from the office.
He was then escorted to a drug center accompanied by law enforcement officers.
Makhabat Taichibek kyzy, an employee of the editorial office of Temirov Live, told journalists that several law enforcement officers, including men in civilian clothes, broke into the office. "I witnessed how drugs were planted. It was a dark green substance in a bag," she said.
The press service of the Bishkek Department of Internal Affairs said an investigation into the detention of the journalist was under way, and more information would be provided later.
The YouTube channel Temirov Live launched a series titled 37 Million Soms In Two Days? The Scheme Of Sadyr Japarov And Tashiev.
The investigation looked into the alleged involvement of relatives of Tashiev in the activities of the state oil company.
Tashiev wrote on his Facebook page that the information published about him by Temirov Live "was a complete lie."
Temirov last year was among 12 people recognized by the U.S. State Department as anti-corruption champions.
The winners of the new International Anti-Corruption Champions Award were announced by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said in a statement that the award recognized people who have worked tirelessly, often in the face of adversity, to combat corruption in their own countries.
Temirov was attacked near his website's office in Bishkek in January 2020 after the website FactCheck published an investigation together with open-source investigative organization Bellingcat about Raimbek Matraimov, the controversial former deputy chief of the State Customs Service, and his relatives.
The Matraimovs at the time were at the center of an alleged corruption scandal involving the funneling of close to a billion dollars out of Kyrgyzstan. Matraimov was rearrested in February 2021 on corruption charges.