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Kyrgyz Inmates Start Mass Hunger Strike

Several inmates were beaten in a Bishkek detention center during an inmates' protest on January 16.
BISHKEK -- Inmates in 13 Kyrgyz jails have started a mass hunger strike to support inmates in detention center No. 1 in Bishkek, where security troops violently quelled a prisoner riot on January 16, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Kyrgyz State Penitentiary Service officials told RFE/RL that inmates in 15 labor camps, a detention center in the northern city of Naryn, a juvenile prison in the northern village of Voznesenovka, and a detention center and a labor camp for women in the northern town of Stepnoi, did not join the hunger strike, while prisoners in all 13 of the other Kyrgyz prisons went on a hunger strike on January 18.

The protesting inmates demand that the rights of the inmates in detention center No. 1 in Bishkek be respected and that some of the doors within the center be left unlocked so that prisoners can move around.

State Penitentiary Service chief Sheishenbek Baizakov said in parliament on January 18 that all the cells in the Bishkek detention centers will continue to be locked.

"This is a jail, not a hotel. We will not unlock any doors. If they want to have a hunger strike, let it be so, but we cannot leave cells unlocked. Today we unlock a cell, tomorrow they will ask for more cells to be unlocked, and more, and more.... We are not going to do that," Baizakov said in parliament.

The violent unrest in Bishkek's detention center No. 1 on January 16 left dozens of inmates and some security officers injured. More than 30 prisoners were severely beaten during the violence and four were transferred in a serious condition to a health clinic at detention center No. 47.

One of the inmates was pronounced dead on January 17, the day following the unrest.

Prison officials insist he died of an illegal drug overdose, while Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun says the man was killed during the security forces' special operation inside the detention center.