Costas Kantouris

THESSALONIKI, Greece: An Albanian convict accused of fatally stabbing a prison guard after being refused a furlough to visit his critically ill mother has died in detention after being severely beaten and possibly tortured, Greek authorities said Friday.

Ilie Kareli, 42, died late Thursday after sustaining chest injuries days earlier that led to heart failure and had an injury on his palm which “looks as if it was caused by contact with electric current,” coroner Minas Georgiadis said.

The coroner’s report also mentioned signs of beating on the soles of Kareli’s feet — a form of torture designed to cause painful swelling.

The Justice Ministry said it was investigating the death of Kareli, who was taken “for his own safety” to the northern Nigrita Prison after Tuesday’s fatal stabbing in Malandrino, central Greece. It said in a statement that he arrived with bruises Thursday, but “did not request medical examination.”

Guards found him unconscious in his single cell and he was pronounced dead in hospital.

He was serving a 20-year sentence for attempted murder, robbery and drugs.

Prison guards denied any involvement in the incident, and their federation issued a statement expressing sorrow at Kareli’s death.

Greece has come under severe criticism from rights groups for the conditions in its overcrowded and understaffed prisons, which are designed for 9,300 inmates and have a population of 12,700.

Inmates in at least four Greek prisons refused to take their meals Friday to protest Kareli’s death, which came amid growing opposition to government plans for a new maximum security prison for convicted terrorists and criminals deemed particularly dangerous.

Prisoners sent to the new penitentiary will not be granted furloughs, and will have substantially restricted early release options and visiting rights.