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Kazakh Officials Confirm Inmate Protest, Deny Troops Sent In

Kazakhs rights activist Vadim Kuramshin
Kazakhs rights activist Vadim Kuramshin
ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh officials have confirmed that inmates at a maximum security prison near Almaty staged a protest late last week, but denied that security forces were brought to the penitentiary, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Well-known rights activist Vadim Kuramshin told journalists on June 19 that a number of HIV-positive inmates of the penitentiary in Zarechny staged a protest on June 17, demanding "proper medical treatment for HIV and decent food for inmates."

According to Kuramshin, the protesting inmates demanded a meeting with representatives of the Penitentiary System Control Committee (KUIS).

Kuramshin said that security forces were brought to the prison to stop the protest, adding that one of the protesters tried to commit suicide and was taken to a hospital in the town of Qapshaghai near Almaty.

Regional KUIS deputy chief Irina Yakubova told RFE/RL on June 20 that some 15-20 inmates gathered in the prison’s central yard on June 17 demanding an "improvement in medical services, decent food, and the lifting of limitations for parcels sent from relatives."

Yakubova added that two of the protesting inmates cut their hands but sustained minor injuries. She added that one inmate tried to hang himself in a solitary confinement cell on June 17, but was saved and taken to the hospital outside prison. According to Yakubova, no troops were brought to the prison to deal with the situation.

"At this moment, everything is calm and normal in the penitentiary," Yakubova said.

Read more in Russian here