DUSHANBE -- The United States is concerned over the situation of human rights in Tajikistan, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Asia and Press and Public Diplomacy has said.
Talking to journalists in Dushanbe on October 24, Emilia Puma said that the U.S. delegation led by her met with top Tajik officials a day earlier and "raised the issue of free press and free media" in the Central Asian country and voiced concerns over the imprisonment of defense lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov and other people.
Puma said that her delegation received explanations on the human rights situation from the Tajik government, but added she was not authorized to make them public.
"We stand with people who want to speak out and participate in an active civic society," Puma said.
The Puma-led U.S. delegation and Tajik government members held the seventh Annual Bilateral Consultations in Dushanbe on October 23.
Yorov was a lawyer for 13 jailed members and leaders of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, which President Emomali Rahmon's government labeled a terrorist organization and outlawed in 2015.
In 2016, Yorov was sentenced to 23 years in prison after a court convicted him of calling for the government's overthrow and inciting social unrest.
In 2017, Tajikistan's Supreme Court found Yorov guilty of contempt of court and insulting a government official and extended his prison term by two years.
Yorov is among at least five human rights attorneys who rights groups say have been targeted by authorities in Tajikistan in connection with their work.
In May last year, Amnesty International issued a scathing report, which accused Tajik authorities of having launched an "unrelenting assault" against lawyers, particularly those who took up the defense of government critics.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who has ruled Tajikistan for a quarter of a century, has been criticized by international human rights group in recent years over increasing disregard for religious freedoms, civil society, and political pluralism in Tajikistan.