Inmate dies in 'hunger strike prison'

  • 2008-08-06
  • By Marge Tubalkain-Trell
TALLINN - A detainee has died in Tallinn Prison, the site of the longest prison hunger strike in recent years.
The Russian-language newspaper Den za Dnjom claimed Aug. 1 that the prisoner's death was a direct result of the strike. The true cause of death has not been confirmed by prison authorities.
"The results of the autopsy aren't clear yet," said Mart Siilivask, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice.  The ministry spokesperson said he believes it is unlikely that the death of the 24-year old prisoner was linked to the hunger strike. He also ruled out violence as a cause of death.

Authorities say the detainee had been brought to Tallinn Prison on July 16 pending a court hearing. The prisoner died July 24, the same day the hunger strike began.
Erkki Osolainen, the prison's director, said that the true reason for the strike is that the detainee had been incarcerated at a section of the Murru Prison "which in the criminal hierarchy is thought to be a department for less respectable criminals."

Even at the high point of the hunger strike, most of the prisoners in the detainee's food service area ate the food he served without protest.
The hunger strike is the longest in Estonian prison history, but it seems to be winding down. On Aug. 4, 28 detainees were still refusing food, while the number was 153 a week before.
Since detainees get food from the prison and also sometimes accept food at the regular meal times, starvation has not affected anyone's health so far.
Medical help and consultation are guaranteed for striking prisoners, but the rules pertaining to hunger strikes and partial hunger strikes forbid the prison from forcing anyone to eat, no matter what it might do to their health.

The management of the prison is working on solving the situation.