QARAGHANDY/ASTANA -- Kazakh officials have made contradictory statements about the reported escape of three inmates from a minimum-security labor camp, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.
Several local media outlets reported on August 15 that three inmates escaped from the penitentiary, which is located in the central town of Dolinka, in Qaraghandy Oblast.
Samal Ghadylbekova of the Justice Ministry's Committee to Control Penitentiaries (KUIS) told RFE/RL that three inmates who are allowed to work outside the labor camp did not return to their barracks on August 15.
She said local police are searching for them.
But Qaraghandy Oblast KUIS spokeswoman Natalya Gorina told RFE/RL there has been no escape and everything is quiet at the labor camp.
Meanwhile, relatives of several inmates gathered outside the gates of a nearby maximum-security prison on August 15, saying the prisoners are being beaten.
Prominent Kazakh human rights activist Vadim Kuramshin told journalists on August 15 that four inmates at the maximum security facility slashed their stomachs to protest violations of their rights.
Gorina confirmed that four inmates "injured themselves slightly, demanding lighter conditions in the penitentiary." She said their health is satisfactory.
The Dolinka prison network in Qaraghandy was established in the 1930s and was a major component of the Stalin-era, prison-camp system.
Current inmates at Dolinka have repeatedly staged riots and protests in recent months.
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