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Vladimir Kozlov looks out from a glass-walled cell during his trial in the city of Aqtau last month.
AQTAU, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan's Manghystau regional court has upheld the sentence imposed on Vladimir Kozlov, the leader of the unregistered Algha (Forward) opposition party.

He was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison last month for his role in a mass strike by oil workers in the country's west that ended in violence in December 2011.

During the unrest, police shot dead 17 people in the western towns of Zhanaozen and Shetpe.

Kazakh human rights defender Yevgeny Zhovtis was present at the court hearing on November 19 and confirmed to RFE/RL that Kozlov's prison sentence was upheld.

Kozlov, 52, insists the case against him is politically motivated as his opposition group is critical of the government and authoritarian President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

Last week, Human Rights Watch urged Kazakhstan to hold an impartial appeal hearing for Kozlov, calling his sentence "a blow to freedom of expression and political pluralism."
Byalyatski was sentenced to 4 and 1/2 years in prison.
The staff of a prominent human rights organization in Minsk is being evicted from its office.

Deputy Chairman of the Vyasna (Spring) Human Rights Center Valyantsin Stefanovich said on November 19 that the unregistered organization had received papers from Belarusian authorities saying that it should vacate its office by November 26.

The center's office is situated in the apartment of Vyasna chairman Ales Byalyatski.

Byalyatski is currently in prison for tax evasion, a charge he has denied since his arrest last year.

Last November, a court in Minsk sentenced him to 4 and 1/2 years in prison and ordered the confiscation of all his property.

The human rights center has been working in Byalyatski's apartment for 12 years.

Stefanovich says Vyasna will continue its operations, even if the organization is evicted.

-- RFE/RL's Belarus Service

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