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Kazakh Activist Says Prisoner's Death Result Of Beatings

QARAGHANDY, Kazakhstan -- Another inmate has died suspiciously at a notorious penitentiary in central Kazakhstan where rights activists say prisoners are abused, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Kazakh human rights activist Vadim Kuramshin, who monitors the rights situation in penitentiaries, told RFE/RL on September 5 that Nurlan Kulmirzaev died in a labor camp for inmates with tuberculosis in the town of Dolinka on August 31.

Kuramshin said Kulmirzaev was severely beaten and tortured before his death and that Kulmirzaev's mouth had been covered with tape.

"For a person who is a TB patient and suffers from asthma, a taped mouth is real torture," Kuramshin said. He added that he has photos of Kulmirzaev's body that show clear signs of injuries, bruises, and traces of violence.

Kuramshin added that Kulmirzaev's relatives took his body from the prison on September 3. "The original autopsy statement said the body has numerous signs of beatings," he told RFE/RL.

The warden of the penitentiary, Colonel Darkhan Qanatbekov, confirmed to RFE/RL that Kulmirzaev died at the labor camp last week. But he added that the inmate died of natural causes, namely of a heart attack.

"He was not murdered. He died. But nobody taped his mouth shut," Qanatbekov said.

"Kulmirzaev's uncle and cousin came from Almaty and brought a written statement from his mother that she does not have any objections toward the labor camp's administration regarding her son's death," he added. "They then took the body from the forensics center."

Kulmirzaev's case is one of several controversial deaths at prisons in recent months in Kazakhstan, where numerous prison protests have been reported that often end with deaths that officials say were either suicides or heart attacks.

Human rights activists insist that inmates in Kazakh penitentiaries are being beaten and tortured on a regular basis.

Read more in Russian here