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Kazakh leader remains in custody on politically motivated charges

19 December, 2019On 3 December, the Shymkent court of Kazakhstan rejected the appeal of Erlan Baltabay, a former chairperson of Energy and Oil Workers Union "Decent Work" who was sentenced in June 2019 to seven years in jail on politically motivated charges never proven in court.

Earlier Baltabay was released from prison in August 2019 after being pardoned by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, following a massive international union campaign for the liberation.

However, this release from prison in August did not put an end to the legal proceedings against the trade union leader. Erlan’s rights were not reinstated, he kept the status of a convicted criminal and faced a ban on his trade union activities. The remaining portion of his seven-year prison term was then replaced by a fine.

At the same time, he was approached by National Security Committee officers who offered Baltabay money to pay the fine. Yet, Baltabay rejected the proposal, insisting on his innocence and the right to appeal his initial sentence.

On 16 October 2019, the Kazakh authorities jailed him again, adding him a new, five-month sentence for non-payment of the fine. His appeal way finally rejected by Shymkent court on 3 December.

IndustriALL and the ITUC repeatedly denounced the initial charges and related intimidation and persecution, as the acts of retaliation for Erlan Baltabay’s trade union activism and principled position in support of other leaders of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (KNPRK) condemned to different limitations on their freedoms.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Ozkan said,

“We urge the authorities to drop all accusations against Erlan Baltabay. This criminal case, just like the earlier cases against KNPRK leaders Larisa Kharkova, Amin Eleusinov and Nurbek Kushakpaev, is a mark of shame for the reputation of Kazakhstan. We consider these to be blatant violations of trade union rights and freedoms by Kazakhstan and denounce them as another attempt to frighten independent trade unions and their leaders to prevent working people in this country from exercising their civil freedoms.”