August 29, 2017
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the three-year extension of Tajikistani lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov’s 25-year sentence. Yorov was initially arrested for agreeing to act as legal representation for members of the country’s Islamic opposition party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), and sentenced to 23 years of imprisonment. Since then, courts have added five years to his sentence, pushing his cumulative prison time above the legal limit. Yorov’s court cases are part of the continuing persecution of lawyers associated with the IRPT. HRF calls on the Tajikistani regime to release Yorov and four other lawyers who were detained for defending IRPT members, and to cease harassing journalists in connection with the IRPT trials.
“All dictatorships lack judicial independence. However, only the most repressive regimes go so far as to target the lawyers that defend their political opponents. Lawyers like Yorov are simply doing their jobs,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “Dictator Emomali Rahmon must end the persecution of lawyers and the press in Tajikistan,” added Halvorssen.
Yorov was first arrested on September 28, 2015 on charges of forgery and fraud while representing 13 senior members of the IRPT. He was detained shortly after he issued astatement on the torture of IRPT political leaders in which he specifically referenced one of his clients and called on lawyers, human rights defenders, and activists to protect the prisoners. During his trial in October 2016, he was charged with “calling for the overthrow of the Tajik regime” and “inciting social unrest,” and sentenced to 23 years in prison.
On March 16, 2017, the Supreme Court extended Yorov’s sentence by two additional years in response to an incident in October 2016, when Yorov recited a poem about foolishness during a closed-door trial.