DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan's Prosecutor-General Yusuf Rahmon has rejected claims by relatives of 14 inmates whose deaths were announced last week that the men had been tortured.
Rahmon told reporters in Dushanbe on July 16 that the inmates died of food poisoning while being transferred from the northern Sughd region to prisons in Dushanbe on July 7.
Some of the inmates' relatives said earlier that they noticed traces of beatings and torture on the inmates' bodies.
Rahmon said the inmates died after they ate bad bread while being transferred, adding that forensics and autopsy experts had not found any signs of torture on their bodies.
Rahmon also said that investigations had been launched into the deaths.
According to Rahmon, there was no connection between the deceased and deadly prison riots in May and November.
In May, unrest in Vahdat prison, 20 kilometers east of Dushanbe, left 29 prisoners and three guards dead.
Authorities blamed inmates belonging to the Islamic State (IS) extremist group for the riot.
In November 2018, another riot left 26 people dead in Khujand, a city in the northeast of the country. A website linked to IS said at the time that one of its “fighters” was responsible for starting the riot.
Tajikistan endured a five-year civil war that claimed tens of thousands of lives shortly after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Tajikistan has been led since 1992 by authoritarian President Emomali Rahmon, who has tolerated little opposition.
Tajikistan is regularly cited for its poor human rights record. In its 2018 World Report, Human Rights Watch said Tajikistan’s human rights record “worsened further in 2017.”