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Ramazan Esergepov, imprisoned editor of Alma-Ata Info newspaper
ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Jailed Kazakh journalist Ramazan Esergepov has been named a recipient of a Hellman-Hammett Grant for 2011, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Esergepov's wife, Raushan Esergepova, told RFE/RL about the award on June 28.

Esergepov, the founder and chief editor of the Almaty-based Alma-Ata Info, was sentenced in August 2009 to three years in prison for revealing state secrets in his newspaper in 2008.

He protested the verdict, saying it was politically motivated. His requests for parole and transfer from a prison to a labor colony were denied. Esergepov's newspaper was closed down after his arrest.

The Hellman-Hammett Grants are administered by Human Rights Watch and awarded to writers and journalists who have been subjected to political persecution and are in financial need.

Esergepov is the third Kazakh to receive such a grant.
Part of a prison annex in Granitny, in Kazakhstan's Akmola region (file photo)
ASTANA -- The wives of several prisoners in the northern Kazakh town of Granitny say their husbands were severely beaten by prison authorities on June 24, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Svetlana Terkibaeva, the wife of inmate Hamid Terkibaev, told RFE/RL that on June 24 she was denied a visit with her husband and relatives who were coming out of the prison told her that a riot had begun in the prison.

Tekirbaeva added that she saw three ambulances and buses filled with soldiers entering the prison.

Margarita Virfel, the wife of another Granitny prison inmate, told RFE/RL that she witnessed beatings in the prison as she was on a three-day visit to see her husband. She said a riot began in the prison early on June 24.

Virfel added that the prisoners were taken out to the prison square and beaten with clubs. She said all visitors were immediately told to leave the facility.

Meanwhile, the press office of the Interior Ministry's Committee to Control the Penitentiary System (KIUS), said the prison was undergoing a maintenance inspection aimed at "identifying, preventing, and combating crimes by the convicts."

The press office added that as a result of the inspection 137 mobile phones, 64 SIM cards, some 10 liters of alcohol, and 65,000 tenge ($444), as well as piercing and cutting items, were seized.

KIUS spokesman Galymzhan Khasenov told RFE/RL the prisoners were upset by the confiscation of the prohibited items and tried to attract the attention of journalists and their relatives by starting a riot.

In August 2010, the prison in Granitny was the scene of a riot in which one inmate was killed while another died laster at a regional hospital.

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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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