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Striking Oil Workers' Leader Sentenced In Kazakhstan

The striking workers are demanding the release of their lawyer, Natalya Sokolova.
AQTAU, Kazakhstan -- A leader of the striking oil workers in western Kazakhstan has been sentenced to a one-year suspended jail term, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Aizhangul Amirova, a member of opposition People's Front movement's central council, told RFE/RL that Aqzhanat Aminov was found guilty on August 17 by an Aqtau court of organizing an unsanctioned mass gathering.

Aminov was arrested on June 30.

Thousands of oil workers have been on strike in the Manghystau region since May, demanding a wage increase, equal rights with foreign workers, the release of jailed union lawyer Natalya Sokolova, and the lifting of restrictions on the activities of independent labor unions in the region.

Some 416 striking workers have been fired since May.

Several activists were brought to the courtroom and charged with organizing unsanctioned mass gatherings since the strike started.

Sokolova was found guilty of "igniting social hatred" and sentenced to six years in prison last week.

Hundreds of the striking workers quit the ruling Nur-Otan party of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, saying they had been pushed into joining it and that the party has ignored their demands for three months.

Famous English singer/songwriter Sting also threw his support behind the striking oil workers when he canceled a July 4 concert in Astana.

Read more in Russian here