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Leaders of all-Kazakhstan trade union, Zhanartu, in danger

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Statement from Esenbak Ukteshbayev and Ainur Kurmanov.

To the Executive Director of the all-Russian movement ‘For Human Rights’,

Lev Aleksandrovitch Ponomarev

To the Director of the Institute for Human Rights, Valentin Michaelovitch Gefter

From Esenbek Ukteshbaev, president of the Kazakhstan Trade Union, ‘Zhanartu’ (‘Renaissance’), and vice-president of ‘Zhanartu’, Ainur Kurmanov


We, the leaders of Kazakhstan’s independent workers’ union, ‘Zhanartu’ (‘Renaissance’) – Esenbek Ukteshbaev, president, and deputy chair, Ainur Kurmanov – wish to alert you to the fact that we may soon be subjected to arrest or abduction, followed by our forced removal to the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan, where inevitable arrest and imprisonment await us.

The basis for these assertions is the coming to Moscow of the head of the Department of Internal Affairs of the Mangistau region, Colonel Amanzhol Kabylov, with a group of intelligence officers, to conduct negotiations with law enforcement officers of the Russian Federation. This we got to know through communications from Russian journalists and from our sources in Kazakhstan. The subject of these negotiations is obvious – to arrrange the carrying out of a certain proceedure in relation to us, as we are currently on Russian soil.

The said senior officer of the Kazakh Interior Ministry is at present in charge of “investigations” into the case of the bloody events of December 16 -18 in Zhanaozen and at Shetpe station in the Mangistau region, which, according to our information, resulted in the deaths of a large number of striking workers and their relatives who had been involved in a peaceful protest.

As a result of the collaboration of the Internal Affairs Ministry and the Kazakhstan Security Service, many criminal cases have been lodged and dozens of people have already been arrested, such as worker-activists taking part in the massive oilworkers’ strike that has lasted since 17 May, as well as leaders of the opposition party ‘Alga’ (‘Forward’) – Vladimir Kozlov, Ayzhangul Amirov, Ruslan Simbinov, Serik Sapargali, as well as the chief editor of the independent newspaper, ‘Vzglyad’ (‘Viewpoint’), Igor Vinyavski. All of them, as well as dozens of people who are forbidden to travel, are charged under several articles of the Criminal Code: 164 ‘ incitement to social discord’, 241 ‘organising mass disorder’ and 170 ‘calling for the overthrow of the existing constitutional system’.

For our part, we have been, since 7 October, on a prolongedvisit to Russia, where we have been exchanging experiences with workers’ organisations and those media organisations who support the striking oil workers in Mangistau and members of our union in Kazakhstan. At home in our country, in the Summer, there was also a criminal case levelled against us on the initiative of the local authority with its ‘arbitrariness’ – under Article 327 of the Criminal Code. But at that time it was suspended and was supposed to be totally stopped due to an amnesty that was announced.

But as we learned from our sources within the law enforcement bodies, a new criminal case is already being fabricated against us under Article 164 of the Criminal Code for ‘inciting social discord’. In fact there is an attempt to blame us and the opposition for the tragic events of December 16-18 last year in Mangistau. This is the reason for the former Commander of Zhanaozen visiting Moscow to organise our arrest and subsequent delivery to Aktau.

We fear that our arrest may be made in secret and carried out in the form of an abduction, without any announcement about us being sought internationally, nor any compliance with all the requirements for legal extradition. Something like this has already been done by Uzbek and Tajik special services in relation to their oppositionists and dissidents who were in the Russian Federation.

We similarly assure you that we are in Russia legally and have not broken any local laws of the land. We have only been engaged in defending the rights of our fellow citizens, violated by the Kazakh authorities in our country. We are asking for help from your side, and the organisation of a campaign in our defence if there is any unlawful arrest or abduction by the Kazakh secret services on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Sincerely yours,

Esenbek Ukteshbaev, President of the Kazakhstan workers’ trade union, “Zhanartu”

and Vice-president of Zhanartu, Ainur Kurmanov

Moscow, February 10, 2012