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Uzbek Prisoners Go On Hunger Strike To Protest Treatment

ZHASLYQ, Uzbekistan -- Some 30 inmates of Uzbekistan's notorious Zhaslyq prison have been on a hunger strike since the end of October to protest their treatment, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

The wives and mothers of several of the inmates on hunger strike told RFE/RL that their loved ones were convicted for religious extremist activity. Some of the inmates' relatives said they had been unable to meet with their husbands and sons for about a month.

They said the prisoners began the hunger strike to protest poor treatment and the pressure exerted on them by prison authorities.

They say their husbands and sons are only guilty of being Muslims who regularly visit a mosque and pray five times a day.

Klara Alimova, who lives in Tashkent, was allowed to see her son, 31-year-old Mirkarim Saidkarimov, on November 20.

She said he told her several inmates were severely beaten by prison guards last month, which prompted the hunger strike.

Zhaslyq is well-known for its very severe and strict regime, and is known in Uzbekistan as "the place of no return." The authorities usually send people sentenced for religious extremism and terrorism to Zhaslyq.

Some half of the prison's 500 inmates have been convicted of belonging to a religious extremist group.

Zhaslyq is located in northwestern Uzbekistan, more than 1,000 kilometers from Tashkent.

Read more in Uzbek here