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Tajik Prosecutor Refutes Reports Of Prison Hunger Strike

QURGHONTEPPA, Tajikistan -- A public prosecutor monitoring prisons in Tajikistan's southern Khatlon Province is refuting reports about an ongoing hunger strike by detainees at a maximum-security labor camp, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Faizullo Holov told RFE/RL that he and a team from his office visit all prisons in the country three times a month and are not aware of any hunger strike. He said all inmates in local jails are being treated in accordance with the law.

"They live in heated barracks and eat three times a day," Holov said.

But an inmate in the YaT-9/7 labor camp in the town of Qurghonteppa, who asked not to be identified, told RFE/RL by mobile phone on December 6 that five inmates have been on a hunger strike since December 1 to protest what they call "illegal deeds of the prison guards" -- including alleged torture and other rights abuses.

The inmate also said there are problems with the heating of the barracks inside the camp and that to shave, prisoners must share a razor blade with several other prisoners -- including some who are infected with the HIV/AIDS virus.

The inmate said "the guards beat and threatened to kill" one prisoner in the labor camp "after he refused to pay them a $1,500 bribe in exchange for becoming eligible for the recently announced nationwide amnesty."

He also said the hunger strikers are "ready to take their own lives if their protest action is ignored."

Holov said after hearing RFE/RL's report on the Qurghonteppa jail that he will visit the facility to check if the information about an ongoing hunger strike is true.

The YaT-9/7 labor camp is a maximum-security facility where men convicted for serious crimes serve long prison terms.

In 2005, 30 inmates in that labor camp organized a riot that was suppressed by riot police. The riot's organizers later received additional prison terms. At least three of them died later in custody.

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