Kazakhstan: Oil workers demonstration broken up

Hundreds detained and beaten – Natalia Sokolova still missing – Urgent solidarity needed

Early Sunday afternoon in Aktau, the regional capital in West Kazakhstan, 500 miners and their supporters from the Karazhanbasmunai company gathered outside the city’s bus station preparing to conduct a peaceful march to the Akimat (Mayor’s office) were they intended to establish a protest camp. Their demands remain the same: the immediate release of their trade union’s lawyer Natalia Sokolova and the reinstatement of all the strikers who have been sacked by the company. As they neared the centre of the town, the column of miners was met by a reinforced police cordon.

When the miners demanded that they be allowed to pass on to the Akimat’s office, the police refused so they started a sit down protest. Just a few minutes later, the police attacked the protest arresting hundreds of the participants. As miners tried to move away, they were chased into side streets and squares. According to eye witnesses, many of the participants were beaten up by the police. The police attacked photographers, even a video operator accompanying a passing wedding cortege. The head of police refused to tell journalists the reason for the arrests.

Towards evening some of those detained were released but still many remained in detention. In protest a number slashed their wrists and 6 protesters have been hospitalized.

The whereabouts of the trade union’s lawyer Natalia Sokolova are still unknown. She has been charged with “stirring up class conflict” – a criminal offence which could mean she spends 4-7 years in one of the country’s notorious prison colonies. A representative of European MP Paul Murphy’s office has phoned the various offices in the city. He was informed by the Head of the Remand Prison that she had indeed been detained there but “was released” on 1st June. When asked to clarify he changed this story to “they took her away”. When asked who took her he refused to say but gave the telephone number of the Police Chief. When he was phoned, he put the phone down immediately and then failed to answer further. Friends and relatives are still unable to find where she is located.

Good coverage of the strike, including interviews with Natalia Sokolova and members of the Kazakhstan and Russian CWI can be seen on K+ TV http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Vjodhx8vYQ

The Socialist Movement Kazakhstan requests urgent protests to be sent to Kazakhstan embassies and to the following addresses: doverie@kmg.kz, info@mangystau.kz, ppo@s-k.kz.

It also calls on all trade union and left organisations to send urgent solidarity to the striking workers at

solidar@socialismkz.info with copies to Robert.cwi@gmail.com

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June 2011