A court in Tajikistan has ruled to extend the detention of jailed lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov by two months, according to a report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi.
Ozodi cites the press service of the Ismoil Somoni district court in Dushanbe as saying that the extension is required for further investigation into the case.
Yorov was arrested in September on charges of fraud and forging documents only days after he agreed to represent 13 members of the now-banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), whose entire leadership stands accused of attempting to topple the government. The case against Yorov relates to an alleged incident in 2010, when he is said to have received $4,000 dollars from an individual in the city of Istaravshan.
Yorov’s relatives said that court decision on the extension of his detention was adopted in their presence on January 28, Ozodi reported. “We saw him close up, and he felt fine,” one relative told the broadcaster.
Unrelenting pressure against the opposition is par for the course for a government increasingly reliant on unfettered authoritarian measures, but the mistreatment of lawyers is a particularly grim harbinger.
Another lawyer acting for the IRPT, Nuriddin Mahkamov, was arrested on October 22.
Compounding their international reputation for legal nihilism, the authorities earlier this month detained three foreign lawyers — two from Turkey, another from Russia — who had traveled to Tajikistan in the hope of meeting the jailed IRPT members and lawyers.
As if to confirm that the pressure has taken on a systemic character, parliament in November approved legislation obliging lawyers to renew their license with the Justice Ministry on a five-yearly basis.
International legal experts have been warning for years that this new procedure would risk purging the profession of independent lawyers, but to no avail.
It should be taken for granted that undesirables like Yorov, Mahkamov and other lawyers that have been jailed after acting in defense of opponents of the government will be drummed out of the profession. The law automatically denies a legal license to anybody with a criminal conviction.
Others too have fallen foul of the new requirements, however.
Ozodagon news website reported earlier this month that more than 20 lawyers had been denied license renewal during the first wave of Justice Ministry certifications in December.
Justice Minister Rustam Shohmurod told the website that 57 lawyers that sat a test required to prove their professional qualifications passed, while between 20 and 25 others failed.
One person to fail the test was Saidbek Nuriddinov, who also happens to the chairman of the union of lawyers. Nuriddinov claims he was disqualified because “an interested group” of people is trying to squeeze him out.
Most curious is a rumor reported by Ozodagon to the effect that the test contained not only points of law, but also general knowledge questions about the date of birth of the Persian poet Rudaki and when the first trains ran in Tajikistan. (858 and 1897, as it happens).
Shohmurod denied those claims.