ASTANA -- The Kazakh Foreign Ministry has officially criticized a recent meeting by a member of the European Parliament (MEP) with striking oil workers in western Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.
Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Iliyas Omarov told journalists in Astana today that Paul Murphy's visit constituted "interference into Kazakhstan's internal affairs."
Omarov said Murphy's actions were "attempts to influence the trial" of the oil workers' lawyer, Natalya Sokolova. Sokolova is charged with organizing social disturbances. Her trial is being held behind closed doors.
Murphy, an MEP representing Ireland's Socialist Party, visited the striking oil workers on July 17. He also met with employees and managers of local oil and gas companies.
The European Parliament sent a letter to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev on July 27 urging him to find a peaceful solution to the oil workers' dispute.
Thousands of oil workers have been on strike in the Manghystau region since May.
They are demanding the lifting of restrictions on union activities, a wage increase, Sokolova's release, and the same rights and conditions as foreign workers employed in Kazakhstan's oil and gas sector.
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