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Kyrgyz Inmates' Relatives Stage Protest In Bishkek

One of the Bishkek inmates on hunger strike talks to media on December 15.

One of the Bishkek inmates on hunger strike talks to media on December 15.

BISHKEK -- More than 50 relatives of hunger-striking Kyrgyz prisoners have picketed the Kyrgyz State Committee to Monitor Penitentiaries (KUIS) in Bishkek to demand the resignation of its chairman, Sheishenbek Baizakov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The protesters say Baizakov is personally responsible for "the deterioration of conditions in penitentiaries and abuses of prisoners' rights."

KUIS press secretary Joldoshbek Buzurmankulov told RFE/RL KUIS Deputy Chairman Nurlan Orozaliev offered to meet with the protesters, but they refused to talk to him and demanded a meeting with Baizakov.

A similar protest action was held in front of detention center No 21 in Bishkek on December 15. The participants demanded a review of some of the inmates' cases. They also criticized and called for an end to what they described as torture in penitentiaries. They claimed some of the hundreds of prisoners currently on hunger strike in seven different prisons in Kyrgyzstan were sentenced for crimes they did not commit.

The prisoners began that hunger strike on December 13 to demand better living conditions and food.

Some officials and politicians, including Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun, say the hunger strike is being orchestrated from outside by associates of former parliament speaker Akhmatbek Keldibekov, who resigned on December 12 after being accused of ties to criminal groups.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez said on December 14 he has urged the Kyrgyz authorities to prevent abuse, torture, and ill-treatment in jails and to ensure the perpetrators are held responsible.

Read more in Kyrgyz here