Lenswoman goes on trial for slander

TASHKENT: A photographer whose award-winning work documents the daily struggles of ordinary people went on trial

in Uzbekistan today, charged with slandering the image of the ex-Soviet state.

Umida Akhmedova, 54, stands accused of portraying people in the Central Asian nation as backward and impoverished in a collection of her photographs and a documentary film, both financed by the Swiss embassy in Tashkent.

“The case of Umida Akhmedova, charged with articles 139 part three and 140, is being heard now,” Judge Bekzod Ermatov said at the opening of the session, an AFP reporter witnessed. The charges of general slander and using the mass media to cause insult or slander carry a maximum sentence of two years in jail in Uzbekistan.

An exhausted-looking Akhmedova, who turned up to Tashkent’s Mirabad District Court wrapped in a flowing green silk coat against the bitter cold, pleaded not guilty to all charges.

“I feel bad. I am a creative person, and sitting in this courtroom like a criminal is very unpleasant,” she told AFP. “I feel like I am the one being slandered,” she added.

Akhmedova placed the blame for the trial not on the government, but on an expert panel it had convened to analyse her work.

The panel concluded in its report that the “photo album does not conform to aesthetic demands,” a throwback to Soviet jargon.