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23 June 2012

Kazakh embassy protest to free Bolat Atabayev

Campaign Kazakhstan held a demonstration outside the London Kazakhstan embassy on 21 June to demand the immediate freeing of Bolat Atabayev.

Ken Douglas, Walthamstow Socialist Party

The protest was joined by Esenbek Ukteshbaev, leader of the independent Kazakhstan trade union Zhanartu, visiting London to raise awareness of the situation facing workers in Kazakhstan.

Alfia Nakipbekova, the celebrated Kazakh cellist, also joined the protesters. She played her cello outside the embassy, declaring: "I am a musician and I will protest the only way I know how, by playing my music".

We also received support from a passing Tobias Menzies, actor in the films Atonement and Casino Royale.

Bolat Atabayev, a famous and popular independent theatre director and performer who openly spoke out against the dictatorship in Kazakhstan, was arrested on 15 June.

He has been charged with 'inciting social discord' in Zhanaozen where the massacre of striking oil-workers and their supporters took place in December.

With him was a young journalist, Zhanbolat Mamaia. Both of them are being sent by road from Almaty to Aktau to stand trial, a journey of over 3,000km.

The conditions of the journey - the heat and the discomfort could kill Bolat. His relatives fear for his health because he suffers from insulin-dependent diabetes, needing medicine every day.

His brother was stopped from giving him the medicine needed for the journey by the police.

Alfia Nakipbekova and Campaign Kazakhstan supporters went in to talk to embassy staff and hand in a letter.

The protest demanded the immediate release of Bolat and Zhanbolat, but also all political prisoners including those oil-workers recently sentenced, and Vadim Kuramshin (see for more info).

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 23 June 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.