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Fired Kazakh Oil Worker Detained After Home Searched

Nuriyash Abdreimova

Nuriyash Abdreimova

AQTAU, Kazakhstan -- The wife of a former oil worker and political activist in troubled western Kazakhstan says her husband was detained after a raid on their home.

Emergency law has been declared in the city of Zhanaozen and tensions are evident in the Manghystau Oblast since deadly clashes erupted in mid-December, months into a bitter labor dispute.

Nuriyash Abdreimova, the leader of the Communist Party's regional branch, told RFE/RL that police searched her Aqtau apartment on January 10, detained her husband Qarasai Andyrbaev, and confiscated her computer after they found leaflets urging President Nursultan Nazarbaev to "go away."

"When I asked them why they came to my apartment, they said that they had information that there might be drugs and weapons in my apartment. I told them that I do not have either drugs or guns and urged them to show their own pockets to make sure they are clean and will not plant any drugs or weapons in my apartment," Abdreimova said.

"They did not find either drugs or guns, but they found several leaflets saying 'Nazarbaev, Go away!' that we used three years ago in one of our party's campaigns. They immediately detained my husband and took him away."

Abdreimova said that she and her husband, who is also a Communist Party activist, were in Aqtau on December 16, when police and security forces shot striking oil workers in the city of Zhanaozen. She said her husband therefore could not be guilty of "organizing an unsanctioned mass protest."

Abdreimova and her husband used to work for the Qarazhanbasmunai oil company but were fired last year along with many of their colleagues while on strike.

Colonel Pavel Buyanov of the Kazakh National Security Committee's (KNB) investigative department refused to comment on Andyrbaev's arrest.

Supporting The Strikers

Abdreimova herself was arrested on December 16 in Aqtau for organizing an unsanctioned mass gathering in the regional capital to support the striking oil workers in Zhanaozen.

She was sentenced to seven days in jail then. After her release on December 24, Abdreimova appealed her sentence at the Manghystau regional court but lost the appeal. She said she planned to appeal the sentence to the Supreme Court.

The Kazakh Prosecutor-General's Office says 16 people were killed and almost 100 were injured in Zhanaozen on December 16. Other sources say the number of casualties is much higher.

The next day, police clashed with protesters at the Shetpe railway station after demonstrators blocked a local railway. One protester was shot dead and 12 were injured.

Those events sparked further protests by oil workers and their supporters in Aqtau.

Thousands of oil workers in Manghystau Oblast have been striking for more than seven months demanding wages equal to those given to foreign workers, the free operation of independent labor unions, and for lawyer Natalya Sokolova to be freed from her six-year jail term for "igniting social hatred" while working with the striking workers.

Read more in Russian here