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Dangerous crackdown on oil workers in Kazakhstan

25 October, 2012IndustriALL Global Union sent a letter to the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev, voicing concerns over the trial of 37 people in connection with 16 December 2011 events in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan.

IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina sent a letter to the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev with copies to prime minister as well as general prosecutor, voicing concerns over the trial of 37 people in connection with 16 December 2011 riots in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan.

Many of those sentenced to prison for taking part in riots were prominent workers’ leaders during the 2011 oil workers’ strike. Furthermore, during the trial both the defendants and witnesses testified to being tortured.

The trial started in March 2012. In early June 13 defendants received sentences ranging from 3 to 7 years. On 6 August the court in Aktau, Kazakhstan, held an appeal hearing. All the sentences were confirmed by this court of higher jurisdiction, except one. Rosa Tuletaeva’s sentence was reduced from 7 to 5 years.

Those sentenced to prison include most outspoken oil workers, all of whom had assumed active roles in the strike.

What’s more, international human rights organizations reported that during the trial both the defendants and the witnesses had testified that they were subjected to physical and psychological abuse by police and investigators, including beatings, suffocation, and threats of rape or harm to family members.

One of the witnesses, Alexander Bozhenko, 20, testified in court that he was tortured for several days and forced to bear evidence against oil workers in Zhanaozen. He completely renounced his earlier testimony, acquired by torture. He also went public with his story, giving interviews to the media.

Alexander Bozhenko’s testimony was central to the presentation given by human rights activist Galym Ageleulov at the OSCE session in Warsaw, Poland.

On 16 October Kazakh media reported that Alexander Bozhenko was found severely beaten and later died from his injuries.

While the authorities claim that the murder was not connected in any way to the trial, many observers note irregularities in the official explanation.

In a letter to Nazarbaev Jyrki Raina urged him to ensure a full investigation of the murder of Alexander Bozhenko, investigate cases of torture reported by the defendants and witnesses of the Zhanaozen trial and thus revise the results of the trial.

The letter can be found here.

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