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Relatives Of Kazakh Convicts At Problem Prison Promised Visits

Prisoners' relatives demonstrate outside a prison's gates in Almaty on July 30.

Prisoners' relatives demonstrate outside a prison's gates in Almaty on July 30.

ASTANA -- Dozens of relatives of inmates at a Kazakh prison hit by a riot last week have been promised they will be allowed to visit the facility, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The relatives gathered in front of the building of the Interior Ministry's Committee to Control the Penitentiary System (KIUS) today. Three former inmates of the prison in the town of Granitny in Aqmola Oblast were also present.

On August 11, special Interior Ministry troops were sent into the Granitny prison to quell a riot by prisoners. One prisoner was killed during the operation and a second died later in the hospital. More than 80 prisoners were injured.

The prisoners' relatives held a demonstration outside the prison on August 11-12 to demand a meeting with the prisoners. When they were not allowed to see them, they traveled to Astana, where they began picketing the KIUS building.

Vadim Kuramshin, a prominent Kazakh rights activist and himself a former prisoner, told RFE/RL that all participants in last week's protest in Astana had been allowed to see their jailed relatives this week.

But he said more people wanted to see their relatives in Granitny prison to ensure they are alive and safe.

KIUS officials promised the relatives today they would be allowed to visit the prison.

On August 9, two days before the riot, six Granitny inmates were hospitalized. KIUS spokesman Ghalymzhan Khasenov told RFE/RL the following day that the six had maimed themselves following a fight with another group of prisoners.

In the last several weeks, many prisoners at different Kazakh prisons have injured themselves to protest conditions and alleged beatings and other abuse by prison guards.