ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- The mother of a Kazakh penal-colony inmate is planning to sue the prison over a beating that she says left her son with brain damage.
Nesipkul Alpysbaeva told RFE/RL that her son Eskendir Tugelbaev, who is serving a prison term in penal colony OV156/18 in the Eastern Kazakhstan region, was severely beaten by riot police or by prison guards on May 12.
She said his skull was fractured, causing "brain damage" that has left him unable to speak. Tugelbaev is currently in a prison hospital in the city of Semei, where he was taken after surgery on his head.
Prison authorities acknowledge that force was used against Tugelbaev when he refused to follow orders, but they claim that it was within the bounds of the law.
The chief of the East Kazakhstan regional department for penitentiaries, Talghat Moldazhanov, told RFE/RL in writing that "due to his refusal to follow prison guards' lawful demands, special items were used against convict Tugelbaev" during "preplanned search measures" at the prison in May.
The wording appears to indicate Tugelbaev was hit with a truncheon or other weapon.
Moldazhanov said that no instrument was used against Tugelbaev's "vital organs" and that the actions of law enforcement officers were deemed by prosecutors to have been "within the law."
Moldazhanov said that Tugelbaev's "head injury was sustained not during the abovementioned special measures, but as a result of [Tugelbaev's] falling down after he experienced a seizure linked to his illness."
However, Alpysbaeva said that her son had no illness and had never had any seizures.
She said that numerous letters she has addressed to President Nursultan Nazarbaev, the Prosecutor-General's Office, and prison officials have gone unanswered.
"Therefore, I am suing the penitentiary and its officials," Alpysbaeva said.
The chief of the Semei prison hospital, Colonel Mukhametqali Esenzholov, confirmed to RFE/RL that Tugelbaev had been operated on before he was brought there, and that he is currently unable to speak. No more details were provided.
A Kazakh prisoners' rights advocate, Ruslan Ozdoev, told RFE/RL that inmates were often severely beaten and sometimes maimed or even killed by riot police or prison guards during so-called "planned search works" inside penitentiaries.
"The penitentiary officials' answer regarding the incident was absolutely predictable, as prison officials do everything to hide the truth in such cases," Ozdoev said.
For years, prisoners in the Central Asian former Soviet republic have rioted to protest jail conditions, often maiming themselves to draw attention to their plight.
Often such riots are violently quashed by riot police or prison guards.