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Half Of Kyrgyz Prisoners End Mass Hunger Strike

An elderly man speaks during a protest in Bishkek by relatives of inmates on hunger strike in Kyrgyz prisons.
BISHKEK -- Inmates at six of 11 Kyrgyz prisons have ended their hunger strikes, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Sheishenbek Baizakov, chief of the Penitentiary and Correction Service, told RFE/RL that prisoners in jail numbers 1, 3, 8, 10, and 16 are still refusing to eat food in a hunger strike that began on March 25.

Baizakov said inmates at six other penitentiaries resumed eating on March 29. He added that the mass hunger strike by prisoners across Kyrgyzstan was masterminded by the leaders of organized criminal groups that are "trying to influence the country's political life."

Dozens of inmates' relatives picketed the parliament building on March 28, demanding that authorities intervene to resolve the standoff, in which prisoners have several demands, including improved conditions.

Kyrgyz jails hold a total of some 10,000 inmates. The hunger strike was first started by prisoners at four prisons on March 25 and spread to virtually all of the country's other penitentiaries by March 28.

Inmates of the only Kyrgyz jail for women, in Stepnoi, and the only juvenile detention center, in Voznesenovka, did not join the hunger strike.

Read more in Kyrgyz here