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Two oil union leaders arrested in Kazakhstan

24 January, 2017Trade union rights are rapidly deteriorating in Kazakhstan. On 21 January, police in Aktau arrested two union leaders from the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan (KNPRK). The KNPRK was recently dissolved by authorities.

The arrested leaders are Nurbek Kushakbaev, KNPRK’s deputy chairman, and Amin Yeleusinov, chairman of the KNPRK’s affiliate the Trade union of Oil Construction Company. They are still detained and their whereabouts unknown.

Kushakbaev is accused of a criminal offence for taking part in an illegal hunger strike. Reportedly, at least 16 other participants of the hunger strike, which reached more than 700 supporters, have been subject to fines from 45,000KZT (US$135) and one of them even 113,500 KZT (US$340), representing significant amounts for the workers.

Similarly to Larisa Kharkova, a former chairperson of KNPRK who was accused of union funds embezzlement soon after the strike started, Yeleusinov is also charged with the same accusations of embezzlement of union funds, which carries a potential sentence of 7 to 12 years’ imprisonment. Police so far however refuses to publicly state how many funds are stolen.

KNPRK’s representatives say the criminal cases have been fabricated to stop the mass hunger strike of workers at the Oil Construction Company. The first rally began on 5 January, and new protesters joined the action on 15 January.

Workers have been forced to stop their hunger strike after their leaders were arrested.

Following their arrest, Kushakbaev and Yeleusinov were denied contact with their lawyer for two days. Employees of the department of internal affairs refused to show the lawyer the police report and to inform him where the leaders are.

Prior to the recent arrests, Valter Sanches, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary, sent a letter to the President of Kazakhstan and demanded that he took action “to restore the registration of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (KNPRK) and protect the right of workers to freely establish trade unions in Kazakhstan”.

IndustriALL supports and joins the ITUC’s campaign at LabourStart and appeals to all affiliates and activists to participate in the campaign for safeguard of the KNPRK from forced dissolution.