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Union Activist In Western Kazakhstan Convicted Of Drug Possession

ZHANA OZEN, Kazakhstan -- A labor activist who helped organize an oil workers' strike in western Kazakhstan earlier this year has been convicted of illegal drugs possession, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Erezhep Tleukulov, a lawyer for Taghan Qoshchanov, told journalists today that the court in the town of Zhana Ozen gave Qoshchanov a suspended sentence of one year in jail.

Qoshchanov was one of the main coordinators of a massive strike by workers at the OzenMunaiGaz company in March in a dispute over pay and other issues.

Qoshchanov was arrested on October 20 when police stopped three trucks and asked the drivers, one of whom was Qoshchanov, to get out for questioning and to take an alcohol/drug test.

Police searched the trucks and said afterward they found a matchbox filled with hashish and heroin in Qoshchanov's truck.

Qoshchanov's colleagues and supporters say the incriminating substances were planted. They said they were found without a search warrant and with no witnesses.

On October 23, Qoshchanov was transferred from the detention center in Zhana Ozen and placed under house arrest after hundreds of oil workers in the town held a two-day strike calling for his release.