9 May, 2018Trade union leader Amin Yeleusinov is to be released on 21 May, provided the prosecutors’ appeal of the court order from a regional court on 4 May is not successful. However, the day before the encouraging news, another regional court commenced a hearing about the dissolution of the Oil Construction Company (OCC) workers’ trade union, which was chaired by Yeleusinov before his imprisonment. The next hearing in that case is planned for 22 May.
The chairman of the OCC workers’ trade union, Amin Yeleusinov, and labour inspector Nurbek Kushakbayev were arrested and tried in early 2017 following a peaceful mass protest and hunger strike of workers, demanding the restoration of their independent trade union centre Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (KNPRK) which had been dissolved by the authorities on 4 January 2017.
In May 2017, Yeleusinov was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted for alleged embezzlement of union funds, as well as public insult, assault, and refusal to follow police orders.
In July the same year, Larisa Kharkova, FNPRK former chair, was also sentenced, 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’s appeal to justice was rejected by the authorities.
Sentenced to two and a half year of jail for instigation to the illegal workers’ strike, the other independent leader Nurbek Kushakbayev so far remains imprisoned. Reportedly a court hearing regarding his potential release would take place on 10 May 2018.
The court order on release of Yeleusinov took place right before the annual International Labour Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) which is taking place in June 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland. Kazakhstan was subject to strong criticism at the last ILC for forced dissolution of unions, arbitrary arrests and criminalization of protests in Kazakhstan.
In April, the independent trade unions of Kazakhstan, represented by Larisa Kharkova, Nurbek Kushakbaev and Amin Yeleusinov, were awarded the Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights. The prestigious award, known as a trade union Nobel prize, was established by IndustriALL Norwegian affiliate Industri Energi, and includes both a cash prize and support for union projects. The motivation says: “The three union leaders have shown great courage in continuing their involvement. The precarious situation of the laureates is only an example of the fierce reality faced, by not only workers in Kazakhstan, but also many the working people all over the world.”
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary says:
“The news about the release of brother Amin Yeleusinov is encouraging, and we hope that authorities will take further steps to remove all false accusations against independent trade union leaders and activists and also release Nurbek Kushakbaev.”
“However, we are still concerned about the further attacks on independent unions, in particular the attempt to dissolve the OCC workers’ trade union. We are following this and other labour related developments in Kazakhstan closely, and will make sure the international community stays informed.”