New Zealand Law Society - Homo Homini Award 2019 goes to Tajik lawyer

Homo Homini Award 2019 goes to Tajik lawyer

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The Homo Homini Award for 2019 will be presented to jailed Tajik lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov.

The award is presented annually by Czech human rights organisation People in Need. The presentation ceremony will be held on 5 March at the opening of the One World Film Festival.

Because Mr Yorov is imprisoned, the award will be presented to his brother, Jamshed Yorov, who is also a lawyer.

Mr 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.

People in Need says Mr. 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. He publicly complained in an interview that one of his clients was being subjected to torture while in pre-trial detention. As a result of doing his job, this prominent lawyer lost both his property and his freedom.

"In 2015, Mr Yorov was one of few lawyers who agreed to represent 13 members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), and was himself arrested on the same day the Supreme Court of Tajikistan labelled the IRPT a terrorist organization. Police raided both his home and legal office without a warrant. Yorov was detained and ultimately charged with forgery, fraud, “arousing national, racial, local or religious hostility” and extremism.

"Before his sentencing, Yorov read aloud an 11th century poem by a Persian poet: “Society is spoiled by a few ignorant people who believe themselves the wisest.” As a result, authorities charged him with contempt of court and he was sentenced to additional two years."

Since the 1990s, People in Need has presented the Homo Homini Award to people and groups who have significantly contributed to the defense of human rights, democracy, and the nonviolent resolution of political conflicts.