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Kazak Parliament Amnesties 20,000 Prisoners

Almaty, Kazakstan, June 26 (RFE/RL) -- The upper house of Kazakstan's parliament declared an amnesty today for nearly 20,000 prisoners or about one quarter of all prisoners in the country. The amnesty applies to those imprisoned for non-violent crimes. Juvenile offenders, widows and veterans of foreign wars are due to be released first.

The Interfax news agency reports the amnesty is being declared to mark the first anniversary in August of Kazakstan's first constitution. It comes at a time when the central Asian state's prisons are receiving reduced funding for upkeep. Kazak Interior Minister Kairbek Suleimanov says some 1,270 prisoners died in Kazak prisons last year of tuberculosis caused by malnutrition, a shortage of medical supplies and prison overcrowding. The Interfax news agency quotes him as telling lawmakers today a further 540 have died so far this year Suleimanov complains his ministry received less than half the 650,000 dollars needed this year for Kazakstan's 77,000 prisoners.