Kyrgyzstan confronts mass prison protest

Hundreds of inmates continue hunger strike, with some resorting to self-mutilation to protest prison conditions.

    Since 2005, jails have witnessed  hunger strikes and acts of self-mutilation in protest of living conditions [knews.kg]

    More than 700 detainees in prisons around Kyrgyzstan have gone on hunger strike and sewed their lips together in protest, authorities in the Central Asian country said.

    The inmates' strike came after detention centre guards shut down the last "common" cell, in which inhabitants had the freedom to move around in day and night.

    Sheishenbek Baizakov, the head of Kyrgyz State Penitentiary Service, said on Tuesday that "out of 11 colonies and 6 detention centres, only four are not on hunger strike".

    According to Baizakov, the "criminal leaders" have started the strike, demanding the opening of so-called "common" prison cells.

    He dismissed the protest against restrictions on movement, saying the prisoners wanted to move around the jails "to continue to be able to make fools of the guards".

    "That will no longer happen," he said at a press conference in the capital Bishkek. "Let them all sew shut their mouths."

    The conflict began in mid-January when Kyrgyz prison authorities announced the beginning of a campaign to put Kyrgyz detention centres and penal colonies in order.

    The first riot started in Detention Centre 1 in Bishkek, when prisoners burned mattresses and some slashed their wrists during an ordinary check-up.

    The prison administration called for riot police to restore order and the conflict ended up with 30 prisoners and 5 guards injured, Russian news agencies reported.

    Jails around Kyrgyzstan supported the strike, which has been going on for about a week already.

    Since 2005, Kyrgyz jails have witnessed uprisings, hunger strikes and acts of self-mutilation in protest of living conditions.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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