Thursday, August 18, 2011 -
Authorities in Kazakhstan handed out jail sentences and fines this week against protesters supporting striking oil workers and a jailed labor lawyer.
Two activists were sentenced Wednesday in the southern commercial capital Almaty to five days behind bars for demanding the release of Sokolova in an “unsanctioned public gathering,” one of them told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
The activists, Arman Ozhaubaev and Dmitry Tikhonov, were arrested earlier while picketing the offices of the ruling Nur-Otan party with placards saying: “Free Natalya Sokolova!” and “Kazakh oil workers are not slaves!”
Also Wednesday, a court in Aktau convicted a leader of the oil strikers for organizing an unsanctioned mass gathering and gave him a one-year suspended prison sentence.
An Aktau court sentenced another opposition activist to 10 days in jail and a $100 fine for staging an unsanctioned protest outside the Kazakh Embassy in Moscow Tuesday. Zhanbolat Mamai, who heads the Spirit and Language movement in Kazakhstan, was detained after flying back from Moscow later that evening.
Natalya Sokolova, who represented the oil workers in the country’s western region, was sentenced last week by a closed court hearing in the Caspian city of Aktau to six years in jail for inciting “social hatred.”
Thousands of workers at two oil fields in the west of the country owned by Kazakh state energy company KazMunaiGas have been refusing to work since May.
The strikers are demanding pay raises, equal rights with foreign workers, the release of Sokolova and the lifting of restrictions on independent trade unions.
More than 400 striking workers have been fired by the company since the industrial unrest began.