Authorities in Tajikistan have piled the pressure on jailed lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov by filing criminal charges against his sister and brother.
Yorov’s sister, Hosiyat, told EurasiaNet.org that she and another brother, Jamshed, learned on May 29 that they face accusations of inciting the violent overthrow of the government. Jamshed Yorov and a former lawyer for the family, Muzamma Kodirova, have been hit with separate charges of incitement to ethnic and religious hatred. All three are currently outside Tajikistan.
Buzurgmehr Yorov was arrested in September 2015 on charges of fraud and forging documents only days after he agreed to represent leading members of the now-banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, who were accused of attempting to topple the government. Rights groups called the case “politically motivated.” In total, Yorov has been sentenced to serve 25 years in jail.
The Yorov siblings are under pressure to return to their homes country from Germany, where they are currently pursuing efforts to lodge their brother’s case in international rights tribunals.
“Jamshed’s wife is being kept in Tajikistan as a hostage. They will not let her leave the country. They have threatened her by saying that if she leaves, they will file charges against other members of her family,” Hosiyat Yorova told EurasiaNet.org.
In a separate development, Hosiyat Yorova said that international rights groups have pledged to translate an account by Buzurgmehr Yorov of his first 100 days in prison into English and Russia, so that it can be circulated more widely. Jamshed Yorov has said he is also spearheading an initiative to compile a list of names of children that he says are being de facto held hostage by Tajikistan’s authorities by being denied the right to leave the country.
The authorities show no sign of tiring in piling ever more jail terms on Buzurgmehr Yorov. The Firdavsi district court in Dushanbe is currently considering another case filed against Yorov for purportedly insulting President Emomali Rahmon. He is also being charged with another case of fraud. Guilty verdicts are a certainty, as is the addition of yet more years to Yorov’s sentence.
The plight of Tajikistan’s lawyers was the subject of a briefing earlier this month by Amnesty International, which has accused the country’s authorities of dealing “a major blow to the legal profession through political manipulation of the criminal justice system and repressive legislation.”
“In a country where fundamental freedoms barely exist, where government critics are incarcerated and independent media silenced; lawyers — particularly human rights lawyers — play an essential role in defending those whose rights are under attack,” Denis Krivosheev, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
In addition to drawing attention to Yorov’s case, Amnesty lamented changes to the law approved in November 2015 that increased government control over the licensing of lawyers, which led to a fall in the number of lawyers able to practice their profession.
Those that have faced most trouble are lawyers that have dared to take up political cases, as Yorov did.
“Over the last three years defense lawyers who have taken up politically sensitive cases or cases related to national security and counter terrorism, have faced increasing harassment, intimidation and pressure in connection with their legitimate professional activities,” Amnesty said in its briefing. “In some cases, lawyers have been subjected to punitive arrest, criminal prosecution on national security-related or politically-motivated charges, and sentenced to long prison terms following unfair trials.”