AQTAU, Kazakhstan -- The trial of opposition leaders Vladimir Kozlov and Serik Saparghali and activist Akzhanat Aminov has begun in a regional court in Kazakhstan's western city of Aqtau.
Kozlov, who is the leader of the unregistered Algha (Forward) opposition party, and the others face charges of forming and leading an illegal group, inciting social hatred, and calling for the violent overthrow of the constitutional structure of Kazakhstan.
The charges are connected to last year's mass strike by oil workers in the western part of the country that ended in violence in December 2011 when 17 people were killed, most of them in the town of Zhanaozen.
Kozlov and the others claim the charges against them are politically motivated.
Visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake said in Almaty on August 15 that the United States will closely follow the Kozlov's fate.
Blake expressed hope that the trial is conducted fairly and does not set back democratic reforms in Kazakhstan.
With reporting by Interfax