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Bodies Of Kazakh Prisoners Withheld From Families

BALKHASH, Kazakhstan -- Relatives of the prisoners killed during an attempted prison break in east-central Kazakhstan early this week say their bodies have not been returned to the families, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Rustam Sargaskaev, whose brother was reported killed during the failed escape on July 10 at the penitentiary in the city of Balkhash, told RFE/RL on July 15 that he had to wait five days to get permission to identify his brother's body at the morgue.

Sargaskaev said that all the relatives of the killed prisoners have been waiting since the incident for permission to identify the bodies. He said his brother had just one year and three months left on his prison term.

Sargaskaev said his brother, who was sentenced for assaulting his father-in-law, had never complained to him about the prison conditions in Balkhash, which is about 600 kilometers north of Almaty.

Bahrein Sertaev, whose brother was also one of the 16 people reported killed in failed escape, told RFE/RL it was difficult to identify the bodies because they were so battered.

Galymzhan Khasenov, spokesman for Karaganda Oblast's Committee to Control the Penitentiary System (KUIS), refused to speak to RFE/RL and said it should ask the Interior Ministry for information on the issue.

But Karaganda Oblast Interior Ministry spokesman Zhanatai Sembekov told RFE/RL he had no information about the bodies and said questions should be directed to the KUIS.

Kazakh Justice Ministry spokesman Sultan Kusetov was quoted by news agencies as saying the prisoners were killed during a shoot-out with security guards that ended with a huge explosion.

Other agencies reported that a group of 16 convicts, described as members of "an organized crime group," were behind the attempted jailbreak and that several inmates died when a homemade bomb intended to blast a hole in the prison's exterior wall detonated.

Read more in Kazakh here and in Russian here