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Kazakh Oil Workers Strike Over Detained Union Activist

ZHANA OZEN, Kazakhstan -- Hundreds of oil company workers in western Kazakhstan went on strike on October 21 to demand the release of a detained union activist, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Workers for OzenMunaiGaz in the town of Zhana Ozen, in the Manghystau region, are demanding the immediate release of colleague Taghan Qoshchanov, who was arrested on October 20 and charged with drug possession.

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

His supporters say the drugs were planted on him before he was arrested.

Striker Talghat Saqtaghanov told RFE/RL that police reportedly stopped three trucks and asked the drivers, one of whom was Qoshchanov, to get out for questioning and to take an alcohol/drug-control test.

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

Saqtaghanov said the drugs were found without a search warrant and with no witnesses. He said they were planted on Qoshchanov in retaliation for his "union activities."

Qoshchanov is being held in Zhana Ozen's pretrial detention center.