A prosecutor has reportedly asked the court to extend the jail term handed down to Tajik human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov by two years.

According to his relatives, Yorov, who was sentenced to 23 years in prison in October last year, now is charged with contempt of court and insulting a representative of state authorities.  

If the court supports the prosecutor’s appeal, Yorov’s term will be extended to 25 years.  

Buzurgmehr Yorov reportedly faces additional jail time for reading out an 11th-century poem in court.

As he sat in the dock during a court hearing in October, Yorov, according to an eyewitness who spoke to Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service, read a poem by Omar Khayyam during the closed-door trial:


With these ignorant few who foolishly

Consider themselves the intelligent ones of the world

Should be donkeys, because they are so deep in donkeyness

That they call "blasphemous" whomever is not a donkey


The reading reportedly led to a heated exchange between the defendant and the prosecutor Rustam Taqdirzoda, who considers that Yorov insulted him as a representative of state authorities.

In October last year, the Dushanbe City Court found Buzurgmehr Yorov guilty on charges of issuing public calls for the overthrow of the government and inciting social unrest.  He was sentenced to 23 years in prison. 

Yorov pleaded not guilty and called his trial politically motivated.

Yorov was a lawyer of 13 members and leaders of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), a group that was banned in 2015 as a terrorist organization.

Dozens of party members have been arrested.

Yorov is among at least five human rights attorneys who have been targeted by authorities in Tajikistan in connection with their work, prompting the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch and other rights groups to call for their immediate and unconditional release.

The European Union Delegation to Tajikistan on March 3 released a statement on the sentencing of Tajik human rights lawyer, Mr. Buzurgmehr Yorov. 

“According to media reports, the Supreme Court of Tajikistan upheld the previous court verdict of a 23-year-long prison term for Tajik human rights lawyer Mr. Buzurgmehr Yorov.

“The EU draws attention to the overall lack of transparency of the court proceedings and to the fact that Mr. Yorov’s right to a fair trial has been violated, which is not in line with Tajikistan’s obligations under international law. Unfortunately, notwithstanding earlier reassurances given by the Tajik authorities, EU representatives were not permitted to observe the trial either.

“The EU calls upon the Tajik authorities to abide fully by the country's commitments to guarantee the fundamental freedoms and uphold the rule of law.”