DUSHANBE , March 16, Asia-Plus - Tajikistan ’s Ministry of Justice has considered an open letter by 53 inmates of the Khujand-based correction colony No 19, in which they complain about poor prison conditions, mistreatment, and low sanitary standards.  

Nazirmat Hilolov, firs deputy of the penal system department within the Ministry of Justice, has told Asia-Plus a special commission of the ministry was sent to Khujand on March 9 to probe into this matter.  Mr. Hilolov headed this commission, and according to him, they inspected the mentioned prison during four days.   

Nazirmat Hilolov says, “53 last names of inmates without signatures were put under the text and the inspection’s results have shown that nine persons from this list did not serve their sentences in correction colony No 19 at all.”

“Besides, I talked separately to each of inmates and they did not confirmed facts mentioned in the letter,” said Hilolov, “Moreover, inmates even are not aware of such letter.”

According to him, the letter could be sent by somebody who wanted to blacken the prison’s administration.   

In the meantime, Radio Liberty reported on March 3 that a copy of the letter, smuggled by the father of one of the prisoners was brought to the office of RFE/RL in Dushanbe .  The letter has also been sent to the Tajik President''s Office as well as several ministries and international organizations.  While the UN and OSCE confirm receipt of the letter, the Office of the President, the Tajik Prosecutor General’s Office, and the Justice Ministry have denied receiving the complaint.

In a recent press conference the Tajik Minister of Justice, Khalifabobo Homidov, admitted bad conditions exist in Tajik prisons, leading to deaths among inmates.

According to the ministry’s statistics, 87 prisoners died in 2005 -- mainly from tuberculosis and other diseases. Prison authorities were dismissed in November 2005 following reported deaths in the Khujand prison caused by a hunger strike by inmates.