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Kazakh Authorities Deny Dissident Poet Tortured In Jail

Aron Atabek in a 2007 photo

Penitentiary authorities in Kazakhstan are denying reports from a rights group that says jailed dissident poet Aron Atabek has been tortured.

The warden of a detention center in the northern city of Pavlodar, Ernur Saspanov, told RFE/RL on November 14 that Atabek is "a too well-known individual to do anything illegal against him."

The Almaty-based nongovernmental organization Ar.Rukh.Khaq (Dignity, Spirit, Truth) said on November 10 that Atabek has been "tortured in custody."

It said guards have intentionally splashed water with a high concentration of chlorine on the floor of his cell, damaging his health.

Atabek, 61, was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2007 after being convicted of helping organize protests that resulted in the death of a police officer.

He told relatives in July that guards had broken his leg.

Atabek has maintained his innocence. He rejected a 2012 government pardon offer that would have required him to admit guilt.

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