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Kazakh union leader Erlan Baltabay imprisoned again

1 November, 2019IndustriALL Global Union and the ITUC are calling for the release of Erlan Baltabay, a leader of the Independent Oil and Energy Workers’ Union in Kazakhstan, who has been returned to prison to serve a new 5-month term.

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 of the union leader. However, Baltabay's release from prison in August did not put an end to legal procedings. The remaining portion of his seven-year prison term was replaced by a fine.

Baltabay insists on his innocence and refuses to pay the fine or recognize the presidential pardon. He wishes to appeal, prove his innocence and restore his fundamental rights. Instead, on 16 October he was given a new prison sentence of five months and eight days for failing to pay the fine.

IndustriALL and the ITUC have launched a new LabourStart campaign, urging the Kazakh authorities to drop all charges against Erlan Baltabay, release him from prison and restore his freedoms, as well as lift a ban on conducting any public activity, including trade union activity.

Initially, Erlan Baltabay was convicted on bogus charges for misappropriation of funds in retaliation for his trade union work and support for leaders of the dissolved Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (KNPRK). He was sentenced to seven years in prison and banned from any public activity, including trade union activities.

“Erlan Baltabay’s imprisonment in the first place was completely unjustified. The entire criminal process against him was a travesty of justice, and we welcomed his release under the President’s decree. We urge the authorities to release Baltabay, in the spirit of the Decree of the President. We also call for the withdrawal of the unjustified and politically motivated sentence that put him in prison in the first place,”

said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

During the International Labour Conference in Geneva in June 2019, as well as during the session in 2017, Kazakhstan was put under a special scrutiny for systematic violations of the trade union and human rights.

Kemal Özkan meets Erlan Baltabay

“Erlan Baltabay is innocent,” said IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan.

“There was never accountability and justification in the judicial process and his imprisonment. We were pleased with his release; however, his recent imprisonment is another shameful act. We once again urge the Kazakh president to restore full freedom to Erlan. This case is a litmus test to see if there is real rule of law and a fair trial in Kazakhstan. Our campaign will continue until there is justice for Erlan.”