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Kazakh Prison Director Sacked

The warden at a maximum-security prison in Kazakhstan has been fired after reports of prisoner abuse, RFERL's Kazakh Service reports.

Sergei Gromchenko was sacked from his post on March 16 as director of the UK 161/2 maximum-security prison in Kazakhstan's northern Qostanay Oblast.

The Kazakh Committee for the Control of Penitentiaries (KIUS) press service said the decision to fire Gromchenko was made following an inquiry by KIUS officials earlier this week. Deputy prison director Didar Smagulov was named acting director of UK 161/2.

The opposition Socialist Movement said on March 14 that military troops were sent to the prison on March 12.

It said that all of the prisoners at the institution had been gathered at the jail's central square and made to lie face-down for some time. Some prisoners' relatives who came to the penitentiary that day for visits were not allowed to see the prisoners, but were not permitted to leave either.

The movement's representatives said that the action against the convicts was not provoked by any incident, and human rights activists are trying to clarify exactly what happened and why.

But Samal Ghadylbekova, KUIS spokeswoman, told RFE/RL on March 14 that "no troops at all were sent to the UK 161/2 jail."

Ghadylbekova added that KUIS Deputy Chairman Talghat Akhmetov was visiting the penitentiary and "everything is calm and quiet there."

No further details about either Gromchenko's sacking or the reported deployment of troops to the prison are available.

Domestic and international human rights organizations have been closely monitoring the situation in Kazakh prisons for some time. Kazakh activists say human rights are routinely abused in the country's prisons and they have urged authorities to improve conditions at penitentaries.

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