The Prague-based NGO People in Need has awarded its annual Homo Homini prize to Tajikistan’s jailed lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov for his “commitment to defending basic human rights and to assure a fair trial to all citizens” of his country.
“Yorov has been promoting human rights in Tajikistan for many years despite facing severe persecution as a result of his work. He did not hesitate to defend clients who were targeted by politically motivated charges, whose cases other lawyers were not willing to take,” a statement said on February 5.
“As a result of doing his job, this prominent lawyer lost both his property and his freedom,” it added.
Yorov was sentenced in October 2016 on charges of issuing public calls for the overthrow of the government and inciting social unrest. His 23-year prison term was later extended by five years after he was found guilty of contempt of court and insulting a government official.
Last year, his prison term was cut by six years as part of a mass amnesty.
The lawyer has denied any wrongdoing, saying his trial was politically motivated because he defended members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, a group that was banned in 2015 as a terrorist organization.
Western governments and human rights organizations have urged the Tajik government to release Yorov, who was awarded last year the Faiziniso Vohidova Human Rights Prize by the Association of Central Asian Migrants in Europe.
The Homo Homini Award will be presented on March 5 to his brother, Jamshed Yorov, at the opening of the One World Film Festival, a human rights film festival held annually in the Czech Republic.
The prize is awarded to people and groups in recognition of their contribution to “the defense of human rights, democracy, and the nonviolent resolution of political conflicts.”
Past laureates include Azerbaijani lawyer Intiqam Aliyev, Belarusian human rights defender Ales Byalyatski, and Iranian activists Abdollah Momeni and Majid Tavakoli.