More Than 1,300 Kyrgyz Prisoners Have Sewn Their Lips Shut In Protest

Bishkek Kyrgyzstan

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More than 1,300 prisoners have sewn their lips together in protest at conditions in the post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan prison system, the BBC reports.The group are part of a wider group of around 7,000 that is on hunger strike. RFE/RL reports that the prison authorities have announced their plan to implement “forced feeding” via an intravenous system.

The prisoners have been on hunger strike since January 17, after a prisoner was apparently killed by guards during a prison riot.

Human rights officials have called the strike “catastrophic”, but prison officials have blamed the hunger strikes on criminal elements, apparently angry at the treatment of a gang boss, AFP reports.

The exact reason for the protests remains unclear. An earlier prison protest this year was said by the government to be over changes to the law that would stop prostitutes visiting the prisoners.

The government response has not been supportive. “Let them all sew shut their mouths,” head of the penitentiary services, Sheishenbek Baizakov, has been quoted as saying.