Leader Of Defunct Kazakh Union Sentenced On Embezzlement Charges

SHYMKENT, Kazakhstan -- The former chairwoman of Kazakhstan's defunct Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, Larisa Kharkova, has been sentenced on embezzlement charges to four years of "freedom limitation" -- a suspended sentence with parole-like restrictions.

A court in Kazakhstan's southern city of Shymkent on July 25 found Kharkova guilty of embezzling the confederation's finances. The court sentenced her the same day.

The court also ordered the confiscation of Kharkova's property and barred her from running for official managerial posts for five years.

Kharkova pleaded not guilty. She has said the case against her was politically motivated.

The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions was closed on January 4 after a court ruled it failed to meet a registration deadline.

Confederation members say attempts to renew their registration were impeded by local officials.

Two union leaders at the Oil Construction Company (OCC) in Kazakhstan's western region of Manghystau were arrested in January after hundreds of OCC workers went on a two-week hunger strike to protest the confederation's closure.

Union leader Amin Eleusinov was later sentenced to two years in prison, and Nurbek Qushaqbaev to 2 1/2 years, on charges of embezzlement and instigating an illegal strike.

Amnesty International condemned Qushaqbaev's conviction, calling it part of the "destruction of the independent trade union movement in Kazakhstan."

Oil and gas revenues are crucial to Kazakhstan's economy and budget.

Oil and gas revenues are crucial to Kazakhstan's economy and budget and President Nursultan Nazarbaev's government tolerates little dissent.