Two lawyers linked to a banned opposition group in Tajikistan have received hefty jail sentences amid criticism of the Dushanbe government for cracking down on political opponents.
A spokesman for a court in the capital Dushanbe said on Thursday that Buzurgmehr Yorov, who represented jailed members of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), was sentenced to 23 years in jail.
Nuriddin Makhamov, who intended to represent his colleague, Yorov, after his arrest, was given 21 years in jail, the spokesman added.
The two lawyers were convicted of extremism and embezzlement.
This is while several human rights agencies have raised concerns about the government’s treatment of political dissent.
“The Tajik government is tightening the screws on lawyers it deems trouble, locking up those who represent the opposition alongside its political foes,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, in May.
In September 2015, the government in Tajikistan banned the IRPT and designated the party as a terrorist organization.
The IRPT leadership was accused of orchestrating a mutiny led by Deputy Defense Minister Abduhalim Nazarzoda.
Nazarzoda was blamed for attacks on a police station and a weapons depot on September 4. He was killed in a special operation.
The IRPT’s leadership has denied the accusation.
Dushanbe says it has jailed 170 people, including key IRPT leaders, for their involvement in the mutiny.
The IRPT had members in parliament and was widely viewed as a moderate political party before being branded as a terrorist group.
Tajikistan, a mainly Muslim but secular country, has been led by strongman President Emomali Rakhmon since 1992.
Rakhmon said last month that the IRPT had planned to topple his government.
Some members of the IRPT fought on the side of the United Tajik Opposition during a five-year civil war that ended in 1997, paving the way for political reconciliation between opposing forces in the country.