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Uzbekistan: Fears raised for photographer facing jail

Amnesty International has voiced its fears that the forthcoming trial of a prominent photographer in Uzbekistan is just the latest attempt by the Uzbek authorities to suppress freedom of expression in the country.

Umida Akhmedova, one of the country's best-known photographers, is due to stand trial on charges of "defamation of the Uzbekistani people" in relation to her photographs of Uzbek men, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights carrying out everyday activities - images published in a 2007 book called Men and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights - From Dawn to Dusk. 

She is also facing charges for making a documentary film The Burden of Virginity, which focuses on the traditional obligation on Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Uzbekistan to prove that they are virgins on their wedding night.

Ms Akhmedova was charged on 23 January and a court hearing is due to take place in the next two weeks; if found guilty she faces up to three years in jail.

Amnesty International Uzbekistan Researcher Maisy Weicherding said:

"The life that she recorded is not the image of Uzbekistan that the government wants to be seen.

"This is the first time that someone in Uzbekistan has been charged because their artistic expression has been interpreted as dissent."

Amnesty fears that Umida Akhmedova has been targeted for exercising her right to freedom of expression, and that she will not receive a fair trial. At least four human rights activists and independent journalists were sentenced to long prison sentences in 2009 and others have faced short-term detentions, beatings and accusations of harming the reputation of the country.

Though the Uzbek authorities deny it, Amnesty believes that those considered to have expressed dissenting opinions in Uzbekistan are frequently harassed, beaten and detained. Should Akhmedova be jailed she will also be at risk of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

Earlier this week Akhmedova told an international news reporter that she could not understand why a criminal case has been brought against her several years after the initial publication of her images. She maintains that her work is not intended to be political, and in her opinion her images are full of love and positivity.

See some of Umida Akhmedova’s photographs

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