Kazakhstan: Another oil worker jailed for 15 days without trial

Police interrogate Ainur Kurmanov and Esenbek Ukteshbayev for a total of 16 hours

Natalia Azhikalieva, the well known strike activist from Zhenaozen, who led a two month long hunger strike in support of the oil workers was arrested in her home on the 8 August. According to strikers, she has been jailed for 15 days without a trial, just on the word of a policeman who claims he suffered from her actions during the violent break up by the riot police of the hunger strike on the 8 July.

Natalia, who weighs no more than 45 kilogrammes, allegedly did irreparable damage to the riot cop who was two metres tall. In protest at the break up of the hunger strike camp, she poured petrol over herself, apparently splashing some over this policeman. The threat to set herself alight held the riot police off. They left, to return the next day in bigger numbers, and arrest dozens of the participants. Now all this is being used to take out another key strike activist.

The police have been trying to charge Natalia with whipping up social conflict a similar charge to that on which the union lawyer was recently sentenced to six years in jail. But It seems the police could not make that charge stick, so they have accepted the lesser charge. According to the workers, there was no trial. Natalia was not allowed a lawyer. They think it may well mean that the state is preparing another large scale attack on the daily protests.

This attack follows the statement issued on 9 September by the oil magnate, Timur Kulibayev. He is head of the National Investment Fund “Samruk-Kazyna”, the main shareholder in KuzMunaiGaz and, not coincidently, son-in-law of President Nazarbayev. He declared the strike illegal and demanded fierce measures to deal with the strikers.

Meanwhile, in Almaty the police are continuing their harassment of Esenbek Ukteshbayev and Ainur Kurmanov, leaders of the Socialist Movement in Kazakhstan. On Tuesday, Esen was questioned for six hours and Wednesday saw a ten hour interrogation of Ainur. The police are using former activists of the “Leave peoples homes alone” campaign who have now done deals with the state as witnesses. They claim that the two were responsible for whipping up a campaign of mass suicides. If that does not stick, as a fall back they accuse them of ordering the breaking down of doors when the bailiffs attempted to evict people from their homes.

The absurdity of these charges is clear. According to research by Harvard University, in the past five years 38,000 people world-wide have committed suicide as a result of the banking crisis. The USA, China, Germany, Greece, Spain, Argentina, Mexico and Russia lead the list of victim numbers of this horrific mass murder. Kazakhstan is no exception. At the start of the crisis, the BTA bank, which is now harassing Ainur and Esen, was on the verge of bankruptcy and had to be rescued by the Kazakhstan government and partially nationalised. Part of its debts were restructured, part written off. Yet this bank refuses to give the same help and ‘bail out’ those it conned into taking out mortgages at high interest rates with high hidden costs. See “More blood on the hands of Kazakhstan’s banks” (www.socialistworld.net, 27/05/2011).

Both Esenbek and Ainur have been forced to sign a paper agreeing not to leave the city while the investigation continues.

Clearly pressure has to be kept up on the regime. Please raise the issue in your trade unions and community organisations.

Protests are urgently needed. What can be done?

Support for the strike:

The strikers have asked Paul Murphy, Member of the European Parliament for the Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), to assist in raising money from the international trade union and workers’ movement and he has subsequently opened a bank account to which donations can be sent to help the strikers and their families.

A special appeal letter appealing to trade union and other organisations, including details of the bank account, can be found here and a longer analytical article taking up some of the disinformation spread by the employers and Kazakhstan state about the strike can be found here.

Please also ask your trade unions to take up the oil workers’ strike.

Protests against the threatened arrests of Kazakhstan’s socialists:

Protests outside embassies or other Kazakhstan interests in your country – (for example, see recent reports, on socialistworld.net, regarding public protests in Sweden, Ireland and Germany).

Send email protests to the embassies in your country and also to the Head of the PR Department at the BTA Bank Asel Tynyshbekova at: tynyshbekova@bta.kz

Please send any reports and messages of support etc. to: Kazakhstansolidarity@gmail.com

Special financial appeal to all readers of socialistworld.net

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September 2011