Kazakhstan: New Year fireworks outside cell of Esenbek Ukteshbayev

A thousand protests made worldwide against jailing of trade union and social activist

The New Year is the main holiday period in this part of the world, but even so the spiteful regime kept trade union and social activist Esenbek Ukteskbayev in prison for the full 15 days sentence until 3 January (See reports on this site). Activists of the ‘Kazakhstan 2012’ movement gathered outside his prison at midnight on New Year’s Eve and made sure that Esen knew they were there! He was passed food and drink and fireworks and bangers were let off, accompanied by calls to free Esenbek immediately.

At the height of the protest/celebration, the police attempted to arrest one of the socialists, claiming that the action was disturbing local residents. When proof of this claim was demanded, the police were left to trail around the doors of neighbours trying to get a signature in support of their claim, but their attempt failed and ended in farce

Three days into the new year, Esenbek was finally released and was enthusiastically greeted by many activists. Notwithstanding the peaceful nature of the gathering, once again the area was crawling with police.

On leaving the prison building, Esenbek described how the authorities tried to provoke him while he was in jail. They put him in cells with drug takers and hardened criminals, who were allowed freedom of movement, and frequently were drunk or drugged up. Despite this, Esenbek managed to avoid any provocation to physical confrontation.

In the days before Christmas, the worldwide response to Esen’s plight was marvellous. Over a 1,000 protest messages were sent to the authorities in response to the international appeal for solidarity. In celebrating Esenbek’s release, we thank all those who made their voices heard.

Harassment continues

State pressure on the independent media in Kazakhstan continues with the decision by a closed court in Almata, on 6 January, to fine the newspaper ‘Vzglyad’ the sum of 15 million tenge – about €80,000 – a sum which the paper cannot possibly pay. In this way, the authorities hope to silence another independent voice.

Pressure on prison rights campaigner, Vadim Karamshin, also continues. He was recently in the town of Atbasar, which in the last weeks has seen a wave of beatings of prisoners by guards in a nearby prison. Vadim has been defending the rights of the inmates, including those of prisoner Sokolov, who has been left severely disabled after a beating session. The head of prison colony IK 90, Suleimenov, has publicly threatened that if Vadim appears in the area again he will “personally deal with him”.

Socialists in the CWI in Kazakhstan and internationally will continue to fight against all forms of state repression, provocation and harassment in the country and against the government’s proposed abolition of elections until 2020. They will do all they can to assist in the strengthening of the workers’ and social protest movements around ‘Kazakhstan 2012’ and to assist the development of an alternative socialist programme.

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January 2011