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Swiss-funded Uzbek director convicted of slander

An Uzbek film director has been convicted of slander over a documentary she made on wedding rituals in the authoritarian former Soviet republic.

Umida Akhmedova, one of the best-known photographers in Uzbekistan, received funding from the Swiss embassy in the capital, Tashkent, for her film and a photo book project.

On Wednesday a court in Tashkent found the 54-year-old guilty of slander and "offence through mass media" but released her in view of the fact she has three children and no criminal record, news agencies said.

“We take notice of the condemnation and we are very satisfied that Mrs Akhmedova will remain at liberty,” Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Erik Reumann told

“We had contact with the ministry of foreign affairs of Uzbekistan over this matter and we are following the situation closely.”

Akhmedova's film, The Burden of Virginity, describes hardships young women face in the mostly Muslim nation during and after the traditional nuptial ceremonies. The film has never been shown in Uzbekistan.

She also produced an embassy-funded album of photographs called Men and Women from Dawn to Dusk, which was published in 2007 and contains more than 100 images of Uzbek customs.

Akhmedova's trial followed a campaign in Uzbek media lambasting the director's films and photographs.

The prosecution of Akhmedova has been criticised by non-governmental organisations including Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

The government of Uzbek President Islam Karimov is regularly criticised for attacks on freedom of expression through censorship of the media and the internet.

Morven McLean,

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