Kyrgyz Prisoners End 'Lip-Sewing' Hunger Strike


Thousands of Kyrgyz prisoners have ended a 10-day hunger strike against jail conditions that saw 1,200 inmates sew up their lips in protest, an official said on Saturday.

"All the prisoners in Kyrgyzstan have ceased their hunger strike," the deputy head of the prisons service Kubanychbek Kenenbayev told reporters, saying that a women's prison in the village of Stepnoe was the last to agree.

The hunger strike came after the prison authorities tightened the regime in Kyrgyz jails following riots that broke out in a Bishkek prison on January 16, apparently over the transfer of a criminal boss to a different jail.

Almost 1,200 of the hunger-strikers took the extreme measure of sewing their lips together with thread, needle and even staples.

But the authorities insisted their duty was to protect the rule of law against organized crime and claimed the prisoners were striking in solidarity with convicted criminal boss Damir Saparbayev rather than over human rights.

"They ended the hunger strike after being convinced that there would be no more excesses on the part of their guards," added Kyrgyzstan's rights ombudsman Tursunbek Akun, without giving further details.

He said that around midnight the prisoners had helped each other to un-sew their lips but they were now turning to medical treatment to ensure that their mouths were not infected.

"The prisoners have unsewn their lips. They have started to take in food again. Many have become weak from hunger," he said.

At total of almost 7,000 prisoners had been on hunger strike since January 17, in a protest which inmates hoped would force the authorities to relax the conditions of their imprisonment in Kyrgyzstan's notorious jails.

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