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S.Africa probes alleged prisoner abuse by British contractor


Johannesburg (AFP) - South African authorities on Monday launched a probe into allegations of abuse of inmates at a maximum security prison run by the British security firm G4S, an official said.

A researcher at the University of Witwatersrand's Justice Project said her year-long investigation revealed that inmates considered "unruly or difficult" at the Mangaung prison near the central city of Bloemfontein were subjected to electric shocks or made to take anti-psychotic drugs.

In some cases a prisoner "would be held down by around six men and forcibly injected with anti-psychotic drugs in the buttocks," researcher Ruth Hopkins told AFP.

G4S has denied the allegations.

Andy Baker, regional president for G4S Africa, said in a statement Monday: "It is unfortunate that the media is pursuing a story based on unsubstantiated allegations from anonymous sources, disgruntled former employees and convicted criminals."

G4S said it "has a zero-tolerance policy for the use of undue or excessive force" at the prison and that its staff had no "access to, nor do they administer, any medication".

Zacharia Modise, a prisons commissioner who took over running the prison nearly three weeks ago, told AFP he could neither confirm nor deny the allegations.

The British security outfit had run the prison housing 3,000 of South Africa's most violent and dangerous prisoners for the past 12 years.

South African correctional services took over control of the prison citing deteriorating security following two hostage takings in a year and the sacking of 300 wardens for an illegal strike.

South Africa's investigative cable television programme Carte Blanche ran a 15-minute documentary late Sunday showing blood-splattered prison floors and an inmate being treated for wounds, while a man in the background could be heard screaming amid what sounded like intermittent electric charges.

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