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Thomas Arendt
CHISINAU -- At least 12 inmates in a jail outside Moldova's capital, Chisinau, say they have started a hunger strike to protest their poor conditions in detention, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

Thomas Arendt, a German citizen serving a fraud sentence in the Pruncu jail, told RFE/RL by phone on November 11 that the temperatures in the cells are unbearably low and there's no light.

Arendt and another inmate, who asked to remain anonymous, said beatings and even torture are common at Pruncu.

A representative from Human Rights Watch's Moldovan office told RFE/RL that it has information about the hunger strike but says the authorities have barred the group from visiting the inmates.

A jail administration official told RFE/RL that only one inmate has filed an official complaint about the conditions at Pruncu.

The same official said the temperature in the cells is 18-20 degrees Celsius.
Ihar Koktysh in an undated photograph.
The rights watchdog Amnesty International is demanding that authorities in Ukraine "immediately and unconditionally" release Belarusian activist Ihar Koktysh.

Koktysh has been detained for more than two years for the peaceful expression of his beliefs, Amnesty says. It considers him to be a prisoner of conscience.

It adds that Koktysh should not be forcibly returned to Belarus, where it says he may be at risk of the death penalty on fabricated charges.

Koktysh was detained in Ukraine after Belarus requested his extradition over what Amnesty calls a "baseless accusation" that he committed murder in Belarus in January 2001.

Koktysh was put on trial for murder in December 2001 after being held in detention for almost a year, during which time he was allegedly tortured and ill-treated. At his trial, he proved that he was in another city when the murder took place and was acquitted and released.

He moved to Ukraine and married. In 2007, Ukrainian authorities honored an extradition request after Belarus's Prosecutor-General appealed the verdict and a retrial ordered.

Koktysh's appeal for refugee status was denied by Ukrainian authorities.

Amnesty notes that a number of international human rights conventions to which Ukraine is a state party prohibit the deportation or extradition of anyone to a country where he or she may face the death penalty, torture, or other ill-treatment or other grave human rights violations.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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