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Kazakh Inmates Maim Themselves In Prison Protest

Police officers block the prison gate as prisoners' relatives gather to see their loved ones in Almaty on July 30.
Kazakh prison officials have said that six inmates in the Almaty detention center cut open their abdomens on July 30 to protest prison conditions, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Irina Yakubova, the deputy chairwoman of the Department for Control of the Penal System in the Almaty region, told journalists that the six inmates had been given medical assistance and their current condition was satisfactory.

She said the group of inmates managed to organize mass phone calls to their relatives and media outlets from their jail cells informing them about alleged mass beatings and torture of the inmates by prison guards.

"All the allegations about mass beatings and cruelty are absolutely groundless," Yakubova said.

Yakubova said that the inmates were also protesting the appointment of the detention center's new chief, Dimash Asqaruly.

On July 30, dozens of the inmates' worried relatives gathered in front of the detention center in Almaty demanding a meeting with their loved ones.

But officials did not allow them to meet with the inmates, saying that two of the convicts had cut themselves open.

On July 31, human rights activists Roza Akylbekova and Ardaq Zhanabilova were allowed to visit the prison. They told journalists later that four inmates had maimed themselves. They did not give any further details.

Meanwhile, human rights activist Vadim Kuramshin told RFE/RL that the conflict was caused by a decision by Asqaruly, the new prison chief, to ban mobile phones in the penitentiary.

Kuramshin said the inmates protested and the guards beat them, causing the situation to get out of control.