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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 September, 2004, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Kenya prisoners die in tiny cell
Inmates of a different Kenyan prison
Kenyan prisons are notoriously overcrowded
An investigation has been launched after five Kenyan prisoners died when being kept in a tiny cell - the size of a single bed - with seven other men.

Initial reports suggest the men had suffocated. Twenty-three others from the prison had to be taken to hospital.

Three of the men were on remand after being accused of illegally brewing alcohol, Kenya's Daily Nation reports.

The two others were serving three-month sentences at Meru jail, which is massively overcrowded.

It was designed to accommodate 500 prisoners, but is holding more than 1,400, the Daily Nation reports.

Hours standing

"Medical officers here are still looking into the cause of the deaths, but initial investigation point at suffocation or infected wounds caused by long standing hours in their cell," Meru prison official Silas Mtambu told AFP news agency.

However, he suggested to the Daily Nation that they may have died from alcohol-related complications.

Local health official Dr James Gitonga said the men had swollen feet and knees and ulcerated limbs - caused by the long hours they were forced to remain standing because of the overcrowding.

They had spent several days in Meru's smallest cell, which measures 1m by 2m and is shared by 12 inmates.

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