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Kazakh Penitentiary Launches Probe After Inmate Video Alleges Widespread Torture


Prisoners in Kazakhstan have frequently complained about conditions in prisons. (file photo)

QARAGHANDY, Kazakhstan-- A maximum security penitentiary in Kazakhstan’s central region of Qaraghandy has launched an inquiry after a video of an inmate, whose eyes and mouth were sewn partially closed, was posted on the Internet to protest allegations of torture in the facility.

The Central Asian nation's penitentiary department (QAZhD) said on November 24 that it had launched an inspection of the Corrective Colony AK-159/25 in the city of Zhezqazghan, following the video statement by the inmate, Zhaniyar Zharmakhanov, which claims the torture of inmates on a regular basis.

According to the QAZhD, other videos taken by inmates of the colony are being investigated as well, adding that if the inmates' claims are proven true, those responsible for irregularities in the prisons will be held responsible.

"Inside this prison, we are being tortured regularly," Zharmakhanov, who has thread running through his eyelids and lips, says in the video, placed on YouTube on November 17.

"Many of us, almost on a daily basis, cut themselves, hang themselves or maim themselves in other ways, in protest or to be treated in hospitals out of the prison to escape torture.... Mr. President, Mr. Prosecutor-General, ministers, please, understand us and help us. We do not have any other way than to sew up our eyes not to see [the guards] and sew up our mouths not to talk to them," the inmate says, adding that the penitentiary’s warden and his subordinates "must be held responsible if something bad happens to us," he added.

Officials of the QAZhD branch in the Qaraghandy region refused to comment on the video to RFE/RL, saying official information will be provided later.

Prisoners in Kazakhstan have rioted frequently in recent years to protest conditions, often maiming themselves to draw attention to their plight.

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