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AQTOBE, Kazakhstan -- A regional court in Kazakhstan's northwest has sentenced more than 20 people who held a protest near a local penal colony to imprisonment and fines.

The Aqtobe Oblast Court spokeswoman Gulzia Maqsatqyzy said 23 individuals, including five women, were sentenced to 15 days in jail. Three women were fined 86,550 tenges ($560) each.

All were detained by police on November 12 near a local penal colony, where they had been staging protests since last week, demanding to meet relatives serving prison terms in the penitentiary.

The protesters claimed they had information that prisoners were subjected to beatings, which prison authorities denied.

The Kazakh government has been criticized for alleged abuses inside the country's prisons for years. Prisoners have regularly rioted to protest jail conditions.