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This week the libel proceedings against Rue89, a French online journal, began in Paris. Behind the lawsuit is Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva – the younger daughter of the incumbent president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, who has been in power since 1990. Karimov is widely recognized as the leader of a dictatorship, and his regime has been widely criticized by several human right organizations and large segments of the international community.
The focus of the suit is an article from May 2010 titled “AIDS: Uzbekistan Represses at Home, but Parades in Cannes” which claims that Ms Karimova-Tillyaeva paid Western celebrities to attend her charity events in an attempt to ‘whitewash’ her country’s image. The article also identified Ms Karimova-Tillyaeva as the daughter of a “dictator”.
The French reporter behind the words, Augustin Scalbers, is accused of making defamatory statements about the 32-year-old philanthropist who works in Paris as Uzbekistan’s ambassador to the UN cultural body Unesco.
According to the BBC, she disputes Mr. Scalbers claim that she paid actress Monica Bellucci $270,800 to appear at a charity event to “whitewash” Uzbekistan’s poor human rights record. Her lawyers are seeking $48,000 in damages.
Mr. Scalbert says he can prove his claim, said the BBC
Numerous reports have described Uzbekistan as one of the worst places for human rights. Thousands of political and religious prisoners are systematically exposed to torture, abuse and eventually death. One notorious case was that of Muzafar Avazov who died in 2002 while imprisoned. According to Human Rights Watch, his remains showed clear signs of torture including large bloody wounds, heavy bruising and lack of fingernails. The medical examiners also found evidence that suggested Mr Avazov was immersed in boiling water – cooked.
Another victim of the notorious Uzbek jails, Mutabar Tadjibayeva, will be testifying for the defense. Ms Tadjibayeva is one of the most vocal human rights activists in Uzbekistan and was tortured and raped during her time in prison, which she was released from only after international pressure.
Eurasianet.org explained that plenty of other international media have called Karimov a “dictator” during his rule, but this is the first time the Karimov family has sued for libel outside of their country.
Last month, Scalbert was quoted for saying “It will be interesting to discuss in court whether Islam Karimov is a dictator or not.” The court hearing, which started on Thursday, will have witness statements from a handful of people who have been victimized by the Uzbek regime. “Islam Karimov is a dictator, and I will participate as a witness,and as a victim of torture by this dictatorial regime,” said one of the witnesses to the Telegraph.
Image provided by UZ01