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Tajikistan: Human Rights Lawyer Sentenced

(Jan. 15, 2015) On January 13, 2015, prominent human rights lawyer Sukhrat Kudratov was sentenced to nine years in prison in Tajikistan. The conviction was for bribery and fraud. Human rights advocates considered it to be a warning against criticism of the country’s government. (Addison Morris, Human Rights Lawyer Jailed in Tajikistan, PAPER CHASE (Jan. 13, 2015).) Kudratov is the Deputy Director of the Social-Democratic Party, an opposition group in Tajikistan, and he is the attorney for the independent news agency Asia-Plus. (Tajikistan – Pre-Trial Detention of Human Rights Lawyer Mr Shukhrat [sic] Kudratov, FRONTLINE DEFENDERS (July 25, 2014).)

Kudratov was known for the 2013 defense of Zaid Saidov, an opposition leader and former official who had been arrested after starting a new political party, the New Tajikistan Party. Saidov was sentenced in December 2013 to 26 years in prison on a variety of charges, including polygamy. (Morris, supra; Tajikistan: Long Sentence a Blow to Free Expression, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (Feb. 7, 2014).) A second attorney for Saidov, Fakhriddin Zokirov, had been arrested and charged with forgery, but was released, following eight months of detention, on November 3, 2014. That lawyer reportedly agreed not to continue defending Saidov. (David Trilling, Tajikistan Jails Prominent Human Rights Lawyer, EURASIANET (Jan. 13, 2015); Mavzuna Abdulloeva, Lawyer Fakhriddin Zokirov After Release Does Not Protect Zaid Saidov, ASIA-PLUS (Dec. 18, 2014) (in Russian).)

NGO Views of Kudratov

Commenting on the case against Kudratov, Steve Swerdlow of Human Rights Watch called it “a serious setback for the freedom of expression and the independent legal profession in Tajikistan.” (Trilling, supra.) That sentiment was also expressed following Kudratov’s arrest last July, by the organization Frontline Defenders, which stated that he “is one of few lawyers in Tajikistan who defends opposition activists, victims of police torture, and those accused of ‘religious extremism.'” (Tajikistan – Pre-Trial Detention of Human Rights Lawyer Mr Shukhrat Kudratov, supra.) Kudratov had been named human rights defender of the year for 2011 by the Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, based in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. (Trilling, supra.)