US rights body urges release of Kazakh lawyer

ALMATY - The US-based human rights body Freedom House has demanded the immediate release from prison of a Kazakh labor lawyer, saying trumped-up accusations were used to punish her for supporting striking oil workers.
A court in western Kazakhstan sentenced Natalya Sokolova on Monday to six years in jail for "inciting social unrest" and "organizing illegal gatherings" at a Sino-Kazakh oil venture hit by a strike that began in May.
The strike at Karazhanbasmunai (KBM), which has also engulfed Uzenmunaigas , a bigger firm operating in the same region, was ignited by workers' complaints over what they see as an unjust system of payment and official attempts to suppress their trade union.
The striking workers are demanding that KBM stop interfering in the work of their labor union and increase their wages.
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