Uzbek Man Found Dead In Kazakh Prison After Alleging Torture

ATYRAU, Kazakhstan -- An Uzbek national has been found dead in a Kazakh prison after complaining to relatives about torture.

Ruslan Otajonov was found dead in a prison near the city of Atyrau in western Kazakhstan on May 8, his father, Rustam Otajonov, said on May 14.

Rustam Otajonov spoke to RFE/RL after being allowed to see his son's body at a morgue in Atyrau.

Ruslan Otajonov’s younger brother, Rasul Otajonov, told RFE/RL by phone on May 14 that several days before his death, Ruslan had sent a video statement to his relatives, complaining of torture.

In the video, which Rasul Otajonov provided to RFE/RL, a man in a blue T-shirt with closely cropped hair introduces himself as Ruslan Otajonov and says that prison guards had threatened him and other inmates, saying that they would "rot in solitary confinement."

"If I die, the prison guards must be he;d accountable," he says.

Ruslan Aitimov of the Atyrau regional prosecutor's office told RFE/RL that Otajonov’s death was being investigated.

The chief of the Correctional System Department in the region, Mirbolat Kopesov, declined to comment on the situation and recommended that RFE/RL send its questions to his agency in written form.

Autopsy and Forensics Center officials in Atyrau told RFE/RL that they could only provide results of the tests performed on Otajonov’s body to his direct relatives.

For years, prisoners in Kazakh penitentiaries have complained of dire conditions.

Inmates have rioted in recent years to protest what they call "torture," often maiming themselves to draw attention to their plight.

On May 10, dozens of people demonstrated in Astana, Almaty, and several other Kazakh cities, protesting “torture" faced by prisoners in the country.

The rallies were quickly dispersed with dozens forcibly taken away from the protest sites by police.

Several protesters were later given sentences of up to several days in jail for "violating regulations on public gatherings."