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Siberian Inmates Start Mass Hunger Strike Over Deaths Of Two Prisoners, Alleged Rights Abuses

Vladimir Osechkin, the leader of human rights group: "The prisoners are holding a mass protest against the constant bullying and torture [at the penitentiary]." (file photo)

IRKUTSK, Russia -- Inmates at a penitentiary in Siberia have started a mass hunger strike to protest the deaths of two prisoners and what they say are widespread rights abuses, including torture, at the facility.

Two sources close to the local penitentiary system in the Irkutsk region told RFE/RL on September 13 that inmates at the Correctional Colony No. 2 (IK-2) went on the hunger strike, claiming that they face regular beatings at the hands of prison guards as part of a system of regular abuse.

A report from the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) to the prosecutor who supervises penitentiaries, a copy of which RFE/RL has obtained, confirmed the deaths of inmates on September 7 and September 9, while at least another 10 cases of the use of force against inmates had been registered in the prison last week.

The leader of human rights group, Vladimir Osechkin, told RFE/RL that he and his colleagues had obtained internal documentation from IK-2 showing inmates are regularly stripped naked, beaten, handcuffed, and dragged across the floor.

"The prisoners are holding a mass protest against the constant bullying and torture [at the penitentiary]," Osechkin said.

Some relatives of the inmates also confirmed that the prisoners are on hunger strike because of the regular beatings and the death of the two men.

FSIN officials in the Irkutsk region did not respond to RFE/RL phone calls and written requests for comment on the situation.

Inmates in Russian prisons often launch mass hunger strikes or maim themselves to protest brutality perpetrated by guards or abuses of their rights.