More than 600 convicts in the republic of Bashkortostan went on a hunger strike over the death of an inmate, the Russian Investigative Committee said on Sunday.
The protesters insist Sergei Lasko was beaten to death by prison officials, said Gulagu.net prisoner rights website, which claimed as many as 900 of 1,100 inmates in the prison participated in the hunger strike.
The regional branch of the Investigative Committee put the number of strike participants at 643. Prison officials in Bashkortostan said only 118 inmates refused prison food.
Five inmates also attempted to open their veins, a popular form of protests in Russian prisons, the investigative agency said. No reports about their condition were available.
Officials at the prison in the city of Salavat repeatedly ignored all complaints filed by inmates and beat up five worst troublemakers after they managed to reach rights activists, Gulagu.net said.
Inmates claimed they are routinely beaten up by their wardens, who turn on music to drown out the screams, the report said.
“Whenever we hear music we know someone’s about to be tortured,” an unnamed prisoner was quoted as saying by rights activists.
Protesters claim Lasko died from the beating, but a preliminary check indicated heart attack as the cause of death, an Investigative Committee spokesman told RIA Novosti.
Prison officials admitted applying force to Lasko, but said it was done legally and did no serious damage to his health.
Most inmates at the Salavat prison are felons, and the active protesters have a track record of opposing prison authorities, said a spokesman for the republican branch of the Federal Prison Service.