A jailed lawyer in Tajikistan has had his lengthy sentence extended by two years for contempt of court for quoting the words of an 11th century Persian philosopher and poet during his original trial.
The ruling handed down on March 16 means Buzurgmehr Yorov now faces 25 years in jail. He was sentenced in October on what his supporters say were trumped-up charges of fraud and inciting hatred and extremism, among other offenses.
Rights advocates argue Yorov was targeted for reprisal because he was one of the few lawyers willing to take up the case of arrested members of the now-banned opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).
During hearings at his trial in October, Yorov quoted Avicenna to say that “society is spoiled by a few ignorant people who believe themselves the wisest; those that would make infidels of all who do not abide by their wishes.” The court was sufficiently offended by the words to file a criminal case of charges of contempt and offending a state representative.
And that isn’t all.
Yorov’s sister, Hosiyat, has told EurasiaNet.org that the Firdavs district court in Dushanbe is now bracing for hearings into yet another case, again on fraud charges, which envision anything up to another 12 years in jail.
In addition to defending the IRPT members, Yorov was the first person to make a public statement about the apparent physical abuse being meted out to the jailed party leadership. That appears to have precipitated in his arrest in September 2015.
State media cast Yorov as a defender of terrorists, which is how the IRPT is now characterized.
“He must be a terrorist himself if he defends terrorists,” one article argued.
When Yorov was first taken into custody, his colleague, Nuriddin Mahkamov agreed to defend him, but was then himself also arrested. Mahkamov has since been sentenced to 21 years in jail.
Another lawyer Muazzama Kodirova did manage to represent Yorov in court, but disappeared in January, only to resurface in Poland, where she has applied for political asylum.
Yorov is now being represented by a lawyer called Mavluda Mamatkulova, although his relatives say they do not know her.
In yet another reprisal, Yorov’s brother, Jamshed, was also arrested on fraud charges. He was released from prison last year by amnesty, however, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Tajikistan’s independence. He too has now left the country.
Sign up for Eurasianet's free weekly newsletter.