Kazakhstan: MEP denied visa as regime seeks to cover up oil worker massacre

Paul Murphy MEP denied visa to Kazakhstan – Nazarbayev regime scared of truth getting out about December 16 massacre of oil workers and their sympathisers.

Paul Murphy MEP was meant to lead a GUE/NGL delegation to Kazakhstan, leaving for Aktau and Zhanaozen in the West of Kazakhstan today [4 April 2012].

Yesterday [3 April], he was informed by the European Parliament’s protocol services that his passport was back with the protocol services but that no visa was issued by the Kazakh Embassy. No reason for this decision was given to the protocol services or Paul Murphy, MEP.

In a letter to the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the EU, Yerik Utembayev, Paul Murphy MEP expressed his discontent with the Foreign Ministry’s decision

"This leaves me to conclude that you have chosen to hamper the GUE/NGL delegation at a time when a first-hand assessment of the court hearings against those people allegedly responsible for the tragic events of 16 December 2011 currently taking place, would be of vital importance for my political group and my work in the European Parliament. "

"I have strong reasons to believe that the refusal to grant visas is taking place on political grounds"

Paul Murphy MEP travelled to Kazakhstan in July 2011 and publicly came out in support of the oil workers’ strike which had engulfed the Mangistau region in the West of Kazakhstan since May 2011 and culminated in the brutal crackdown by state forces on 16 December, which left at least 16 people dead.

Ever since his visit in July 2011, relations with the official Kazak authorities had turned cool. In a letter, following his visit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan stated: "The Republic of Kazakhstan has the right to declare the abovementioned officials as persona non-grata".

"The refusal to grant me a visa follows the general clamp down on democratic rights in Kazakhstan. Following December 16, we have seen increased repression against opposition activists, journalists and human rights defenders in Kazakhstan. Leading opposition figures such as Vladimir Kozlow and prominent human rights defender Vadim Kuramshin are in prison and could face possible sentences of up to 15 years. Leading figures of the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan, Ainur Kurmanov and Esenbek Ukteshbayev can not return to their country out of fear of immediate arrest.”

“Now we see the start of a mass show trial in Aktau against 37 strikers, at which the judge has reportedly said that the police do not have to appear to defend their evidence. The prosecutor is demanding sentences of up to ten years." It is clear from the decision not to issue visas that despite their invitation to independent observers to investigate the situation in West Kazakhstan; the government has no intention of actually allowing any independent observers to visit the region at this critical time”.

"Independent trade unions in Aktau and Zhanaozen invited me to Kazakhstan and I am very upset that I cannot travel today. However, I will continue to speak out in favour of democratic and workers rights in Kazakhstan and call for the release of all political prisoners in the country. I will also reapply for a visa at a later stage".

Press statement of GUE/NGL, European Parliamentary Group, "European United Left / Nordic Green Left", 4 April 2012

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April 2012