Up to 600 prisoners in prison in south Russia have gone on hunger strike in response to the brutal attack and subsequent death of a fellow inmate at the hands of prison staff.
Several men are reported to have slashed their wrists in protest, but they are not thought to be in a life threatening condition.
Typically, the authorities are denying any brutality at the prison. However, representatives from the Public Monitoring Committee (whilst inspecting the prison) claim that they witnessed several examples of officers beating prisoners.
A spokesman reported that:
“We discovered the beatings, we found proof….it was terrifying. They beat prisoners till they were blue. All the rooms were covered in blood.”
The prison staff are claiming that Sergei Lasko (the man who died) passed away as the result of a heart attack. Witnesses and activists claim otherwise – they believe that his death was the result of regular torture and beatings.
Inmates claim that torture is a regular occurrence. The prison staff allegedly turn the music up to full volume to drown out the screams.
An unnamed prisoner was quoted as saying:
“Whenever we hear music, we know someone is about to be tortured”.
The authorities are attempting to play down the significance of the strike, claiming that there are only 100 people involved (out of a prison population of 1000).
Prisoners dispute this, insisting that it is nearer 600. Regardless of whether its 600 or 100, such a show of dissent represents a real challenge to the authorities, and the staff attempting to enforce control in the prison on a day to day basis.