Larisa Kharkova

Larisa Kharkova

Kazakh court rejects union leader’s appeal for justice

06.10.2017

The Shymkent city court refused to satisfy the appeal of the trade union leader Larisa Kharkova sentenced to a four-year restriction of her freedom based on “power abuse” accusations as chair of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan.

At the court hearing of Kharkova’s appeal against her sentence on 28 September 2017 the judge refused to invite specialists, knowledgeable about specifics of trade union work or other witnesses, and left the earlier court verdict in force.

Larisa Kharkova, former chairperson of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (KNPRK) was sentenced on 25 July on false charges to four years of restriction of her freedom of movement, 100 hours of forced labour, and a five-year ban on holding any position in a public or non-governmental organization. Kharkova is prohibited from changing her place of residence and place of work. The union leader is banned from visiting certain places, and is not allowed leave her city of residence without authorization.

Kharkova believes her rights were infringed due to poor awareness of the prosecutor and investigator about the national law on trade unions. Kharkova’s lawyer also expressed the opinion that in the case of Kharkova there were many discrepancies and irregularities while accusations against her were not upheld by evidence and needed to be considered in a civil or an economic court.

The case against Kharkova was initiated based on protests of striking oil workers of Kazakhstan’s Oil Construction Company (OCC), who fought against KNPRK’s closure. Nurbek Kushakbayev and Amin Yeleusinov were identified by the authorities as responsible for the illegal strike and sentenced to two and a half years and two years of jail accordingly.

At the same time KNPRK union activists reported acts of intimidation. Kharkova’s own family was subject to intimidation. On 14 September, her son’s car was set on fire. Other KNPRK representatives also reported on irregularities with their vehicles and having identity documents stolen.

IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan comments,

“IndustriALL is worried about this unfair verdict of the court, which sentenced Kharkova based on ungrounded accusations. And now as it was not enough, in addition to worrisome criminalization of trade union work in Kazakhstan we also witness even further acts of intimidation against KNPRK leaders and rank and file members endangering their lives.

"We demand that Kazakh authorities immediately start a proper investigation of all the cases related to KNPRK members, stop prosecution of Kharkova and other KNPRK leaders and restore freedom of association and rule of law in Kazakhstan. And the first step in this direction is to free earlier jailed leaders Kushakbayev and Yeleusinov.”