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Ill-Treatment Of Inmates Blamed As Unrest Breaks Out At Siberian Prison

A banner reading "Save Us" hangs from a brick prison wall.
A banner reading "Save Us" hangs from a brick prison wall.

Authorities at a prison in Siberia say they have established control after what they said was violent unrest among inmates over the weekend.

Four inmates were hospitalized and 12 prisoners authorities accused of inciting the violence at Corrective Colony No. 6 in the Omsk region were moved to a pretrial detention center, the news agency Mediazona reported on October 8.

Prisoner rights activist Olga Romanova said on October 7 that fighting broke out between inmates who do the bidding of the guards on one side and the rest of the prisoners on the other.

The cause of the conflict was anger over ill-treatment of inmates, Romanova, director of the group Rus Sidyashchaya -- which translates as Russia Behind Bars -- said on Facebook. She said inmates had begun a hunger strike.

Mediazona, which covers the Russian justice system, posted a photograph of a banner that read "Save Us" hanging from a brick prison wall.

The regional department of the Investigative Committee said on October 7 that it is investigating "the infliction of bodily harms on inmates by other inmates" at the prison.

Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) spokeswoman Svetlana Plotnikova said that the prison was cordoned off by police following what she said was a riot by inmates on October 6.

Plotnikova said inmates fought one another after some of them "decided to live in accordance with their own regulations, ignoring legal regulations."

It is often difficult to determine what is going on inside Russian prisons, and the official accounts could not be independently verified.

Vera Goncharova, a lawyer who has a client who is an inmate at the prison, also said that inmates began a hunger strike following a conflict with the facility's administration.

Goncharova told RFE/RL that there have been reports of torture at prisons in the Omsk region, some 2,200 kilometers east of Moscow.

"When convicts learn that they are being transferred to [prisons] in the Omsk region, they cut their veins to avoid being sent there," she said.

She said that a guard at a different Omsk prison was held responsible and the regional head of FSIN was fired earlier this year following a scandal over torture allegations, but that "generally nothing has changed."

The issue of torture in prisons and jails has been in the spotlight across Russia since July, when a video showing at least 17 guards beating inmates at a prison in the Yaroslavl region was made public by Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

With reporting by Current Time TV and Novy Omsk

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