Tajik lawyer stopped at border 

Tajik lawyer stopped at border 

Tajik border guards on the Kyrgyzstan border have prevented a prominent human rights lawyer from leaving the country, according to Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. Tajikistan was called on to remove the ban on Fayzinisso Vohidova and free three other rights lawyers held on apparently politically motivated charges.

Guards at the Auchi-Kalyacha border stopped Vohidova as she tried to reach Kyrgyzstan saying she “had no right to leave Tajikistan”. The Tajik security services have recently interrogated Vohidova several times after she criticised the imprisonment of Buzurgmehr Yorov, a human rights lawyer who had been sentenced to 25 years after an allegedly politically motivated trial.

“Tajik authorities are blatantly violating Vohidova’s right to freedom of movement,” said Steve Swerdlow of Human Rights Watch. “This appears to be part of a pattern to keep critical voices, including Tajikistan’s independent lawyers, from spreading information about the ongoing and severe political crackdown in the country.”

Vohidova, who practises law in Khujand, is known for her rights and criminal defence work, has been harassed and intimidated for taking on politically sensitive cases for many years. Vohidova was told she had been put on a list of people banned from leaving the country for which there is no appeal.

Arbitrary bans on travel violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to leave any country. Tajikistan signed it in 1999.

Last month Vohidova appealed on Facebook for President Emomali Rahmon to free Yorov and Nuriddin Makhkamov, another lawyer. They have been held since September 2015 after agreeing to provide legal representation to the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan.

The pair were jailed for at least 21 years for inciting social unrest and calling for the overthrow of the government.

Last month it was ruled that broadcasters must refer to Rahmon as “the Founder of Peace and National Unity, Leader of the Nation, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, His Excellency Emomali Rahmon”, according to Radio Azadliq. It takes 15 seconds for the name to scroll across the screen on the television news.

The state broadcaster’s chief said the media outlets and websites should follow the new rule in all official reports.

Social media proposed further titles such as “the man in the moon”, “the creator of the universe” and “the magnificent ruler of Tajiks”.

“Provide all of your citizens with jobs and stability, and then call yourself whatever you want, even the Almighty,” someone posted on Facebook.

Hissor fortress. Tajikistan. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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