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Kyrgyz Official Says Jail Hunger Strikes Backed By Bakiev's Relatives

BISHKEK -- A Kyrgyz official says the relatives of ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev are actively supporting a mass hunger strike in the country's jails, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Kubanychbek Mamakeev, the special prosecutor at the Kyrgyz Penitentiary System Control Board, told the KyrTAG news agency that of the people claiming to be relatives of the hunger-striking inmates, in fact only a small percentage are actual relatives. He said the others have been paid to protest.

Mamakeev said in some instances "we have spotted relatives of Kurmanbek Bakiev among the protesters in Bishkek and some other cities, supporting the hunger strikers."

Mamakeev told RFE/RL that the mass hunger strike by the inmates is a well-organized, planned political action. He added that no violence has been used against the striking inmates.

Kyrgyz officials say about 10,000 inmates in prisons across the country are on hunger strike demanding better conditions in jails.

The hunger strike started in four major jails on March 25 and later spread to other penitentiaries.

Dozens of people claiming to be inmates' relatives picketed the parliament building demanding authorities intervene to resolve the standoff.

Kazybek Umotov of the Penitentiary System Control Board told RFE/RL that in six prisons -- numbers 1, 3, 8, 10, 16, and 19 -- almost all inmates are on a hunger strike. He said a smaller number of inmates joined the hunger strike in the country's remaining five prisons and six detention centers.

Umotov added that officials are doing their best to resolve the situation through negotiations.

The head of the Penitentiary System Control Board, Kalybek Kachkynaliev, told RFE/RL that the situation is under control. He said none of the striking inmates has any health problems at this point. He added that one inmate died over the weekend of a disease he had been fighting for months and his death is not related to the hunger strike.

Kachkynaliev also said the ongoing hunger strike is illegal and has been organized and masterminded by the leaders of the country's organized criminal groups.

Read more in Kyrgyz