Trade union leader convicted in Kazakhstan
In the evening of 25 July, the district court of Shymkent, a city in the south of Kazakhstan, completed the trial of the former chairman of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan (CILU) Larisa Kharkova, who was accused of misappropriation and embezzlement of trade union funds. The union was liquidated by the authorities. The court sentenced her to four years of restraint of liberty with confiscation of property.
Thus, the motion of the prosecutor was satisfied which at the debate stage suddenly re-qualified the accusation article to “the use by a person, exercising managerial functions in a commercial or other organisation, of his/her powers contrary to the legitimate interests of this organisation.” In addition to restricting freedom, Larissa Kharkova was given 100 hours of “forced labour” (the judge's words - author's note), she has been forbidden to hold senior positions in public organisations for five years.
In her last speech, Larisa Kharkova stressed that until the last moment she had the status of the witness with the right to protection, who has the same rights as the suspect and the accused. However, neither she nor her lawyer was allowed to read a whole range of documents. When the lawyer Dana Volkova demanded the investigation to provide the necessary materials, a back reaction followed.
“The psychological pressure was so intensified that, practically, I could not even stay at home. They broke [into my house] day and night, constant surveillance, wiretapping. The only place of relative peace is the office of the lawyer. Interrogations were conducted every day, including weekends and holidays,” Kharkova told some details of the investigative measures carried out.
A spokeswoman for the CILU Lyudmila Ekzarhova said that the pressure on independent trade unions in Kazakhstan was very harsh to stop their activities. “It's just not clear why and to whom it is necessary because only independent trade unions uphold the interests of workers. And, of course, this is an attempt to shut the mouth not only of the leaders of the trade union but also to the working class,” Ekzarkhova said.
During the whole process, in addition to representatives of Kazakhstani human rights organisations, Alexander Yaroshuk, the representative of the International Labour Organisation and the International Trade Union Confederation (of which the CILU was a member) was in the courtroom as an observer. Both international organisations have accumulated a lot of questions to the authorities of Kazakhstan, which, most likely, will not be adequately answered.