verdict after accepting “comical” evidence that photos libelled Uzbekistan.  By 
IWPR staff in Central Asia

TAJIK PROSECUTOR STEPS DOWN IN MAJOR SHAKEUP  Reshuffle preceded by unusually 
public row between rival crime agencies.  By Lola Olimova in Dushanbe

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Court issues guilty verdict after accepting “comical” evidence that photos 
libelled Uzbekistan.

By IWPR staff in Central Asia

A leading human rights activist in Uzbekistan has condemned the conviction of 
photographer Umida Ahmedova on charges of defaming the entire nation. 

On February 10, Ahmedova was convicted of two criminal charges of “libelling 
and insulting the people of Uzbekistan”, on the basis of pictures and video 
depicting life in the countryside. 

The prosecution’s case was based on the findings of a specially-convened 
committee which took a dislike to Ahmedova’s visual portrayals of rural parts 
of Uzbekistan where living standards are universally low. (See Uzbek 
Authorities Move Against Top Photographer. 

Some of the “libellous” material belongs to a published collection of 
Ahmedova’s photographs called "Women and Men from Dawn to Dusk”. 

The judge freed Ahmedova immediately, arguing that she was eligible for 

Surat Ikramov, leader of the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights 
Defenders, who attended the hearing, argues that the guilty verdict was 
intended as a warning to others not to step out of line. Also, he said, the 
judge could not have dismissed the case as that would have shown that the 
prosecution case had no foundation. 

Ikramov shared his impressions of the trial in an interview for IWPR. 

IWPR: How did the hearing go? 

Ikramov: The trial took place on February 9, and sentence was passed the 
following evening. All requests submitted by Umida Ahmedova and her lawyer were 

The most comical aspect of it was that there were three so-called experts at 
the trial – the ones who had issued findings on Umida’s photo collections and 
[documentary] films and characterised them as “insulting”. Oddly enough, these 
experts were not professional photographers or documentary-makers and 
themselves admitted they were not well up on these matters. 

However, this case was a set-up, so the experts were merely doing their jobs. 
There were no other witnesses at the hearing. The court probably decided there 
was no need. 

I think the haste with which the verdict was reached can be explained by the 
worldwide furore this case had caused; the authorities got a bit worried. That 
was also apparent from the judge’s demeanour. As far as I could see, he was 
jumpy and uncomfortable. 

IWPR: Why was this hearing held in public? Over the last year and a half, 
independent human rights defenders and journalists haven’t been allowed into 
many court hearings. 

Ikramov: Public trial is prescribed for the offenses of libel and causing 
insult. The court was hoping that some truth to the accusations could be found, 
although it was obvious they didn’t believe that came out. The verdict was 
produced very rapidly. 

IWPR: Why do you think Umida was amnestied immediately? 

Ikramov: The amnesty does not cancel the guilty verdict, nor does it 
rehabilitate her…. It effectively means a court has found the defendant guilty 
but the state has forgiven her. Her lawyer insisted that she be acquitted for 
lack of evidence. The court failed to prove her guilty in a proper manner. 
After two 150-minute films made by Ahmedova were shown in court, the people in 
the courtroom applauded and said, “Excellent film”. 

IWPR: What would have happened had Ahmedova been acquitted? 

Ikramov: That would have been the end of the investigators and the prosecutor, 
as they would have been made responsible for fabricating a criminal case. 

Although Umida was not held in custody, she has suffered moral and material 
damages that must be compensated. By the way, under Uzbek law, a person can 
amnestied only once, and if – God forbid – the authorities accuse her of 
anything again, she will not be eligible, and may face imprisonment. 

IWPR: Many experts predicted that Umida’s trial would set a precedent, in other 
words provide an indication of the authorities’ future action against 
freethinking people and journalists. There was a view that this trial could 
mark the start of a war on dissidents. How would you describe it? 

Ikramov: The war on dissidents in Uzbekistan will continue. The authorities 
want to indicate to people involved in culture and the arts intellectuals and 
artists that they should keep silent, that they should be fearful of producing 
work that depicts reality, and that they should not seek independence – just as 
happened in 1937 [peak of Stalin's terror]. 

The regime wants to put an end to independent activity even by people who 
aren’t involved in politics. So we have concerns about Ahmedova’s husband, who 
co-authors some of her works; and we are also worried about sports commentator 
Khairullo Hamidov, whose trial is due to begin very soon. [For more on 
Hamidov’s case, see Uzbek Sports Journalist Accused of Islamist Leanings.] 

It’s a message to others – beware.


Reshuffle preceded by unusually public row between rival crime agencies.

By Lola Olimova in Dushanbe

Simmering rivalries between Tajikistan’s prosecution service and a newer, 
specialised anti-corruption agency have ended in the departure of the country’s 
chief prosecutor, Bobojon Bobokhonov. 

When it was established in 2007, the Agency for State Financial Control and 
Combating Corruption acquired functions that appeared to overlap with those of 
the state prosecution service, and this created friction between the two 

Formally, Bobojonov retired rather than being pushed. His principal deputy was 
dismissed at the same time. 

Announcing the change on January 30, President Imomali Rahmon named a former 
head of the anti-corruption agency, Sherkhon Salimzoda, currently State 
Secretary for Legal Policy, as the new Prosecutor General. 

The Senate, the upper house of the Tajik parliament, had to be convened in 
emergency session to approve the appointment. 

In the preceding weeks, the prosecution and anti-corruption services had openly 
attacked one another. 

On January 12, Bobokhonov used a routine press conference, intended to run 
through the prosecution service’s activities in 2009, to launch a broadside on 
anti-corruption officers who he said had gone out of their way to set his men 

He said the anti-corruption agency had detained criminals, in some cases even 
murderers, and then offered them inducements to bribe prosecutors, in order to 
catch the latter red-handed. 

“They told them, “Go and bribe the prosecutor and we’ll get him,” said 
Bobokhonov. “That’s the wrong method…. If you catch a criminal you should hand 
him over to the law-enforcement agencies, not use him against someone.” 

The anti-corruption agency responded on January 26, using its own yearly press 

Agency head Fattoh Saidov dismissed Bobokhonov’s allegations as groundless. No 
one had been set up, he said. Instead, his officers merely acted on complaints 
from the families of detainees from whom prosecutors were extorting bribes. 

Analysts in Tajikistan say the root cause of the animosity between the 
prosecution service and anti-corruption agency is that their functions overlap. 

The prosecution service was until relatively recently an all-powerful arm of 
state – a status it carried over from Soviet times – and judges tended to be 
led by the evidence it brought. 

Changes to the law that come into force this spring transfer the crucial right 
to issue arrest warrants from the prosecutors’ office to the courts, bringing 
Tajikistan into line with international good practice. 

Under Bobokhonov, the service has tried to claw back powers that have been 
gradually slipping away to the judiciary and anti-corruption officials. (See 
Tajik Prosecutors Take On Courts, RCA No. 586, 07-Aug-09.) 

In comparison, the Agency for State Financial Control and Combating Corruption 
is a newcomer. The agency has since been busily burnishing its reputation, not 
least since it was set up with the blessing of the international community, 
which recommended hiving off the task of tackling corruption from the 
prosecution service. 

According to a study two years ago by the Institute for Strategic Studies, 
which has links to President Rahmon’s office, many or even most bribery cases 
take place in the period between a suspect is detained and before he goes to 
trial, and police, court officials and prosecutors are on the take. 

“Initially the anti-corruption agency was conceived not as an executive 
structure but rather as an analytical centre. However, then it acquired 
executive powers as well,” said leading political analyst Parviz Mullojanov, 
adding that it and the prosecution service “duplicated each other’s functions”. 

Anti-corruption officers have extensive powers to conduct investigations in 
other government agencies, including the prosecution service. 

The appointment of Salimzoda, who was the anti-corruption agency’s first head 
and is seen as close to President Rahmon, is seen by some as another major 
setback for the prosecution service. 

However, Shokirjon Hakimov, an analyst who is also deputy head of the 
opposition Social Democratic Party, says Bobokhonov had been coming up to 
retirement age anyway, and was simply irked that possible contenders were 
jostling for his job. 

Aliakbar Abdullaev heads a non-government group called the Centre for 
Anti-Corruption Education and Propaganda, and believes that the public way this 
conflict has been conducted is regrettable as it weakens that job of 

Abdullaev recalls that the prosecution service used to coordinate efforts by 
all law-enforcement agencies via a special council which would convene to 
hammer out issues in private. “For some reason, the council has ground to a 
halt in recent years”, he says. 

Like a number of analysts, Mullojonov thinks Salimzoda’s arrival as chief 
prosecutor could help smooth differences with his old workmates in 

Mullojonov adds a note of caution, saying it will take more than just one 
person to turn the prosecution service round. 

Hakimov agreed, saying that while Salimzoda was likely to introduce new 
recruitment procedures and other reforms, “only time will tell how effective 
they are”. 

To gauge the mood among prosecution staff, IWPR spoke to a senior official who 
was sanguine, but asked to remain anonymous. 

“Sherkhon Salimzoda is a prosecution service man. He’s risen through the 
ranks,” said the official. “I don’t see this as a tragedy; you just have to see 
it as it is…..Although they say new brooms sweep clean, I am sure he’s going to 
make sensible decisions given the experience he has built up in other 
government agencies.” 

Lola Olimova is IWPR Tajikistan editor.

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