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Kazakh Activists Supporting Striking Oil Workers Under Pressure

Striking Kazakh oil workers in Aqtau

Striking Kazakh oil workers in Aqtau

AQTAU, Kazakhstan -- Several visiting activists who went to support striking oil workers in western Kazakhstan have been threatened with arrest if they don't leave the area, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Opposition groups and movements sent several representatives to the city of Aqtau over the weekend to express support for the workers of the Qarazhanbasmunai Oil Company, who have been on strike for more than a month.

Well-known businessman Serik Saparghaliev, who was not allowed to register as a presidential candidate earlier this year, told RFE/RL that he and several other activists were temporarily detained by police on June 12 when they tried to visit the town of Zhana-Ozen, near Aqtau, where the striking oil workers had gathered.

Saparghaliev said he and two other activists -- Nuriyash Abdireeva and Aluash Ongharova -- were officially warned in writing that they face being arrested if they do not leave Aqtau within 48 hours.

Abdireeva told RFE/RL she was also attacked and beaten by an unknown woman who shouted that she had no business in the Manghystau region, where Aqtau is located.

Hundreds of Qarazhanbasmunai workers have been striking to demand a wage increase and the lifting of restrictions on the activities of independent trade unions in the region.

They are also demanding the immediate release of jailed trade union activist Natalya Sokolova.

Sokolova, who provided the striking workers with legal assistance, was found guilty on May 24 of "organizing an unsanctioned mass gathering" in front of police headquarters in Aqtau three days earlier and sentenced to eight days in jail.

Her sentence was to have ended on June 1. But instead of releasing her, the authorities in Manghystau region brought a new criminal case against her for "igniting social hatred." She is still being detained.

Meanwhile, the oil workers' strike continues.

Read more in Kazakh here