Russian prisoner solidarity hunger strike

2012-07-23 17:58

Moscow - Over 100 prisoners proclaimed a hunger strike and five slashed their wrists at a high security prison in southern Russia over the controversial death of a fellow inmate, officials said on Monday.

The prison in the town of Salavat in the southern region of Bashkortostan said in a statement that 125 people were now on hunger strike but the situation in the prison was "stable" and the lives of those who slashed their wrists were not in danger.

However local activists quoted in Russian media have said that the numbers on hunger strike that was launched at the weekend are far higher at at least 600.

Rights activists insist that prison inmate Sergei Lasko was beaten to death by the officials of the prison in Salavat. But according to the local Investigative Committee, he died because of a heart attack.

"We have contradictory information," admitted Maria Kannabikh of the Russian Public Chamber, a state body which oversees the work of public institutions in Russia.

"The prison officials are insisting that Lasko died because of the heart attack and that there was no torture," she told the RIA Novosti news agency.

"But representatives of the Bashkortostan public monitoring committee report a mass beating in the prison and the abuse of authority," she added.

A spokesperson for the local Federal Prison Service also said that most of the inmates in this prison are all serious felons and that the protesters have a record of opposing local authorities.

But the local Investigative Committee has launched an investigation over Lasko's death.

Hunger strikes as well wrist-slashing are frequent forms of protests in Russian prisons.

Human right activists say their reason are the mass beating, torture and abuse of authority by the officials.