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Kazakh Oil Workers End Strike After Union Activist Promised Lawyer

OzenMunaiGaz workers on strike in Zhana Ozen have gone back to work.
ZHANA OZEN, Kazakhstan -- Hundreds of oil workers in western Kazakhstan have ended their strike after management promised to hire a lawyer to defend a union activist accused of drug possession, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The workers at the OzenMunaiGaz operation in the town of Zhana Ozen, in the Manghystau region, went on strike on October 21, one day after their co-worker, union activist Taghan Qoshchanov, was arrested for alleged drug possession.

On October 23, Qoshchanov was transferred from the detention center in the town of Zhana Ozen and placed under house arrest.

The strikers continued their protest action till late on October 25, demanding Qoshchanov be fully exonerated of all charges.

The workers ended their strike after OzenMunaiGaz management promised to hire a lawyer to defend Qoshchanov's interests during the investigation and subsequent trial. Qoshchanov will remain under house arrest until December 21.

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.

Several police officers 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 drugs were planted. They said that the drugs were found without a search warrant and with no witnesses.

Qoshchanov is an active union member who has organized and coordinated a number of strikes by oil workers this year.