[JURIST] A court in Tajikistan [BBC backgrounder] on Tuesday sentenced Sukhrat Kudratov, an award-winning human rights lawyer, to nine years in prison for bribery and fraud. Kudratov, who was named human rights defender of the year in 2011 by the Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law [official website], represented political official Zaid Saidov in 2013 when he was arrested for starting a new political party. Before his arrest in July 2014 [Front Line Defenders report], Kudratov also represented victims of torture, political activists and religious extremists. Many see Kudratov’s imprisonment as a warning against criticism of the authoritarian government. Steve Swerdlow [official profile] of Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called [Twitter post] the action “a serious setback for the freedom of expression…”
Tajikistan has long been criticized for its use of harassment and torture. In February the UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez urged the Tajikistan government to implement policies [JURIST report] and laws that have been previously adopted by the government in order to end torture and ill-treatment within the country. Amnesty International [advocacy website] reported in July 2012 that torture, beatings and ill-treatment of detainees are common practice in Tajikistan. The human rights group claimed [JURIST report] that the country lacks measures adequately protecting detainees from abuses and ill-treatment and noted that there are more incentives than deterrence for police officers to engage in such practices.