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Afghan prisoners stitch mouths closed over poor conditions

KABUL, March 17 (RIA Novosti) - Over 70 inmates at Afghanistan's main high-security jail have stitched their mouths shut and gone on a hunger strike, national media said on Monday.

The incident at the Pul-i-Charkhi jail comes four days after inmates of cellblock 4, where Taliban militants are held, rioted against the decision of NATO officers to take some of them away for interrogation. The Taliban militants claimed that they would be executed without trial.

At present, cellblocks 2, 3 and 7 of the jail are protesting against the "poor conditions" in which they are being held and the apparent arrests of some of their relatives who had come to the prison for a visit.

On Monday a group of Afghan journalists and lawmakers tried to visit the prison for a probe into the situation, but they were not allowed in. Media reports say that security has recently been tightened at the jail.

Pul-i-Charkhi, located on the eastern outskirts of Kabul, houses some 2,000 prisoners, about a hundred of them female. The prison has running water, a hospital and even a library. However, all the facilities are extremely outdated, and electricity supplies are sporadic. The prison guards lack adequate equipment and training, and corruption is widespread.

The jail, built in the 1970s, became notorious during the rule of communist leader Nur Mohammad Taraki, when thousands of people were executed and buried in mass graves nearby. In 1984, the German Der Tagesspiegel newspaper described the jail as "a kind of Buchenwald."

In February 2006, six inmates were killed and dozens injured in riots sparked by a request from the jail's authorities that they wear prison uniforms. Prisoners gained control over one of the prison's blocks and fighting continued for the whole night.

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