BY Gabriel Levy
An international trade union campaign is demanding justice for activists jailed in Kazakhstan for their part in the oil workers’ strike movement.
Seventeen people were last month sentenced to prison terms of between three and seven years – despite the fact that, in some cases, they told the court they had been tortured by police before the trial.
Campaigners are also demanding an investigation into a massacre of strikers on 16 December last year, when police opened fire on unarmed demonstrators at Zhanaozen in the oil-producing region of Mangistau, killing at least 16 and wounding at least 64.
There have been solidarity demonstrations with the Kazakh oil workers in Russia and several European countries. An on-line protest, demanding a review of unjust sentences, has been launched by the Confederation of Labour of Russia, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan and the LabourStart web site.
On 12 July the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, ended her first mission to Kazakhstan by calling for an independent international investigation in to the Zhanaozen massacre.
We call on trades unionists around the world (i) to write to the Kazakh government, demanding the release of the jailed oil workers and investigation of the allegations of torture, and (ii) to demand that the British government takes action too (as it has close links with Kazakhstan and supports the activity of British oil companies there).
Most of the Kazakh prisoners have been convicted under catch-all laws such as one forbidding “incitement of social, national or religious enmity”. Many of the sentences were handed down on 4 June, at the end of a trial of 37 Zhanaozen residents.
Activists and others who had publicly championed the oil workers’ cause received the heaviest punishments: Roza Tuletaeva, a 46-year-old mother of three and the main spokesperson for the striking oil workers, was sentenced to seven years.
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