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Kazakhstan: independent union leader freed

24 May, 2018Amin Yeleusinov, former chair of the trade union of Oil Construction Company (OCC), was released from prison in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan on 22 May following a decision of the local court taken on 4 May.

In May 2017, Yeleusinov was sentenced to two years in prison for alleged embezzlement of union funds, as well as public insult, assault, and refusal to follow police orders.

The real reason for his arrest was his part in organizing mass protests against the dissolution of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (KNPRK), to which OCC trade union was affiliated.

Nurbek Kushakbayev, deputy chair of the KNPRK, was arrested as part of the same case, and remains in prison, but is likely to be freed soon. He was sentenced to two and a half years for instigating an illegal workers’ strike. On 10 May, the court issued a decision on his parole. He is expected to be freed at the end of the month.

In the summer of 2017, former KNPRK chairperson Larisa Kharkova was sentenced to four years of restricted freedom of movement and 100 hours of compulsory labour. She was banned from holding any position in a public or non-governmental organization for five years. Her appeal against her sentence was not upheld.

In April 2018, KNPRK, in recognition of its three convicted leaders, was awarded the Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights, established by IndustriALL affiliate Industri Energi.

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, says:

“IndustriALL is delighted to learn of the liberation of Amin Yeleusinov. We look forward to the imminent release of Nurbek Kushakbaev.

“However, the situation in Kazakhstan remains critical. The trade union of Oil Construction Company is likely to face dissolution, meaning that the authorities of Kazakhstan continue to attack independent trade unions.”