IRKUTSK, Russia -- Rights activists are questioning official reports that an inmate committed suicide after he was found dead in a prison in Russia's Siberian region of Irkutsk.
Relatives of Adygzhy Aimyr-Ool, an ethnic Tuvinian, told RFE/RL on February 28 that they had found out about the death from other inmates who had managed to get word to them.
Vladimir Osechkin, the founder and coordinator of the Gulagu.net human rights group, told RFE/RL that Aimyr-Ool was found dead on February 26 during an evening roll call.
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"There are traces of violence on [his] body. However, the prisons's administration says it was a suicide," Osechkin said, adding that it was not clear why the 26-year-old Aimyr-Ool was transferred from a medium-security penitentiary to a maximum-security prison for especially dangerous convicts.
Aimyr-Ool's daughter-in-law, Anaikhal Aimyr-Ool, said that no one from the family was informed of the prison transfer.
"Other inmates told us that Adygzhy started having problems with the guards after he officially filed complaints about conditions at the prison. He refused to withdraw the complaints. According to the inmates, 'two guys' entered his cell a day before his death. We do not believe it was a suicide," Anaikhal Aimyr-Ool said.
On February 25, Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) said probes had been launched against an unspecified number of guards and 10 inmates who allegedly tortured an inmate, Tahirjon Bakiev, at another penitentiary in Irkutsk.
The FSIN has rejected allegations by some rights groups that the incident carried any ethnic motives. Bakiev had Central Asian roots.
Gulagu.net reported in December that another inmate, Kezhik Ondar, a Tuvinian, was tortured in Detention Center No. 1 in Irkutsk.
On February 22, the FSIN said that wardens at Detention Center No. 1 and the Correctional Colony No. 6 had been suspended as preliminary investigations began into the reports.
Osechkin told RFE/RL on February 25 that some of the inmates had confessed to beating and torturing other inmates and testified that they did so on commands from guards at the facility.
Bakiev and Ondar initially served their terms at Correctional Colony No. 15 in the city of Angarsk in the Irkutsk region. Last April, inmates at that penitentiary staged a large riot, after which many inmates were transferred to other prisons in the region.
Human rights groups cited some of the inmates as saying that they had faced beatings and torture after they were transferred to other prisons, where guards used other inmates who agreed “to cooperate” with the administration to force them to confess to organizing the riot.