PRAGUE -- Jailed Tajik lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov has received the Prague-based People in Need NGO's annual Homo Homini prize at a special ceremony in the Czech capital.
Prominent Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov, who spent more than four years in Russian prisons for his stance against his native Crimea's annexation by Moscow in 2014, and Simon Panek, the head of the People In Need, handed the prize to Yorov's brother Jamshed on March 5.
"Such support for people like Yorov is extremely important. The more we talk about them, the innocent people jailed on trumped-up charges, the greater chance that they will not be tortured or killed while in custody. And there is a better chance that under the pressure of the international community, these people will be freed the way I was freed," Sentsov said before handing the prize to Jamshed Yorov.
Panek called Buzurgmehr Yorov "a lawyer with an extremely strong sense of justice and truth, which led him to the decision to start defending people whose rights were abused, who were unfairly prosecuted, and those whose trials were fully controlled by the authorities who ordered the cases to be launched."
After receiving his brother's award, Jamshed Yorov expressed gratitude to the People In Need organization and read out a statement from his brother, who stressed that the award gave him and his compatriots hope that the ideas of "human rights and the rule of law" had not been forgotten.
"Your support, your understanding, and your recognition give me strength and reiterate my belief that justice will always win out. I do not regret anything, everything I've done was done for justice and the law," Buzurgmehr Yorov's statement said.
Yorov was sentenced in October 2016 on charges of issuing public calls for the overthrow of the government and inciting social unrest. His 23-year prison term was later extended by five years after he was found guilty of contempt of court and insulting a government official.
Last year, his prison term was cut by six years as part of a mass amnesty.
Yorov has denied any wrongdoing, saying his trial was politically motivated because he defended members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, a group that was banned in 2015 as a terrorist organization.
Western governments and human rights organizations have urged the Tajik government to release Yorov, who last year was awarded the Faiziniso Vohidova Human Rights Prize by the Association of Central Asian Migrants in Europe.
The Homo Homini Award annual prize is awarded to people and groups in recognition of their contribution to "the defense of human rights, democracy, and the nonviolent resolution of political conflicts."
Past laureates include Azerbaijani lawyer Intiqam Aliyev, Belarusian human rights defender Ales Byalyatski, and Iranian activists Abdollah Momeni and Majid Tavakoli.