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Saidnuriddin Shamsiddinov, a 41-year-old Tajik attorney and former bailiff, has just been sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison. (file photo)

One of the most hazardous jobs in Tajikistan is being a lawyer -- at least the type of lawyer who believes in genuine justice.

Buzurgmehr Yorov and Nuriddin Makhkamov are two examples.

Yorov suddenly faced criminal charges after daring to defend Tajik opposition figures in court and Makhkamov faced similar charges after trying to defend Yorov.

Both were convicted of fraud, inciting national, racial, local, or religious hostility, and extremism, despite the prosecutors' failure to present any evidence to support the charges. Yorov was sentenced in 2016 to 23 years in prison, with five additional years being added at a later trial, while Makhkamov was sentenced that same year to 21 years in prison.

Buzurgmehr Yorov (file photo)
Buzurgmehr Yorov (file photo)

Fast forward five years and you have Saidnuriddin Shamsiddinov, a 41-year-old attorney and former bailiff who was just sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison after a Vakhsh court found him guilty of seven crimes, among them the illegal sale of land, fraud, and purposefully spreading false information.

Shamsiddinov's relatives reject the charges and verdict and say the real reason for Shamsiddinov's imprisonment was his criticism about prosecutors and judges in posts on social networks.

RFE/RL's Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi, spoke with Shamsiddinov's brother, Kamariddin, who said Saidnuriddin posted under the name Saidi Sadr and regularly denounced judges and prosecutors.

Kamariddin recounted one of these posts in which Saidnuriddin wrote: "Some judges in Khatlon…embarked on the path of mistakes and decide the fate of people in the wrong way, unreasonably condemning many poor people."

Another of the posts read: "Judges of the Khatlon district court -- Boyzoda T.G., Akhmazoda M., and Rasulzoda -- violated the law for their own benefit."

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon (file photo)
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon (file photo)

These are exactly the sort of comments authoritarian Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has disingenuously called on citizens to make in order to rein in corruption and prevent flawed policies from continuing to damage society.

But in Tajikistan, authorities are sensitive to any criticism and those who criticize usually find themselves in court.

Fayzi Oli is one of Shamsiddinov's lawyers. He said the prosecution has a weak case.

"We reviewed all the material concerning the illegal sale of a plot of land. His father sold the land, and he is no longer alive, but the father's signature is still on the documents," Oli said, adding: "Regarding the publication of deliberately false information about the prosecutor, my client did not publish any illegal information."

Oli said that "as a lawyer, I testified at the trial that citizens have the right to complain to the president, the prosecutor-general, or the Supreme Court, but my colleague was all the same convicted for these reasons."

Another of Shamsiddinov's lawyers, Nusratullo Mirzoev, said his client used his final statement in court to declare his innocence and reject all the charges against him.

But the judge used the statement as evidence of Shamsiddinov's guilt.

Ozodi contacted the judge at the trial, Ahliddin Nazarzoda, but after hearing the question about Shamsiddinov, he hung up the phone and disconnected it.

Public prosecutor Abdumajid Saidzoda declared that allowing Shamsiddinov to remain free would be a threat to the safety of Tajik citizens.

Shamsiddinov's family plan to appeal the verdict, but in Tajikistan there is really no hope for an acquittal.

Saidnuriddin Shamsiddinov was only calling for a fair judiciary to emerge in Tajikistan, but he appears to have become the latest victim of an unjust practice that has been a hallmark of the country's court system throughout nearly 30 years of independence.

Russian opposition activist and lawyer Lyubov Sobol (file photo)

Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, has been detained by police on a charge of calling for an unsanctioned rally in relation to a planned nationwide protest on January 23 in support of the jailed Kremlin critic.

Sobol's lawyer, Vladimir Voronin, tweeted on January 21 that police stopped his car and took his client to a police station to charge her there. Before that, three men had been at Sobol's apartment and tried to hand her a written warning from the Moscow Prosecutor's Office about the planned protest.

Earlier in the day, a lawyer with Navalny's Anti-Corruption Fund, Vladlen Los, who is Belarusian citizen, was briefly detained and informed that he must leave Russia before January 25.

At a January 18 hearing that Navalny called a "mockery of justice," a judge ruled to keep him incarcerated until February 15, by which time a different court is expected to decide whether to convert a suspended 3 1/2 year sentence he served in an embezzlement case, which he says is being trumped up into real jail time.

His team subsequently called for nationwide protests on January 23.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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