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More Than 1,000 Kyrgyz Inmates Sew Their Mouths Shut

One of the inmates with his mouth sewn up

One of the inmates with his mouth sewn up

Kyrgyzstan's state penitentiary service says that more than 1,000 inmates who were on a hunger strike over prison conditions sewed their mouths shut overnight after authorities decided to force-feed them.

Inmates have been demanding more freedoms in jail in protests some say are being coordinated by criminal groups outside the prisons.

Newly installed Kyrgyz prison officials last week took away special privileges for jailed criminal bosses who were living in large rooms often equipped with, among other things, big-screen televisions and modern furniture.

"[Imprisoned criminal bosses] are used to getting what they want [in prison]," parliament deputy Ravshan Djeyenbekov told RFE/RL on January 24. "They are used to dictating their rules to the official authorities. Of course, now they don't like the government's initiatives to make changes [in the penitentiary system]."

Click Here For More Photos Of The Inmates

A riot broke out in one of the remand centers on January 16, when inmates attacked guards and smashed property in the holding facility.

The next day, after authorities quelled the riot, thousands of prisoners at 13 jails and detention centers announced they would hold a hunger strike.

Penitentiary service Chairman Sheyshenbek Bayzakov said authorities have no intention of giving in to the inmates' demands.

"Let them all sew their mouths shut," Bayzakov reportedly said.

Kyrgyzstan's ombudsman, Tursunbek Akun, has said inmates' rights were violated in the wake of the rioting, according to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service.

compiled from agency and RFE/RL reports