Colombian prisoners handcuffed in park

Around 40 suspected of crimes from robbery to drug trafficking kept in Bogota due to lack of room at detention centre.

    Colombian prisoners handcuffed in park
    Thursday's crop of detainees huddled under tarpaulins, their arms linked by handcuffs guarded by officers [AP]

    Around 40 prisoners in Colombia have been handcuffed to each other, a fence and even a children's slide at a local park, after officials said there was no room at a local detention centre.

    Prisoners, who are suspected of crimes ranging from robbery to drug trafficking, are being guarded at the public park in western Bogota's La Granja neighbourhood by groups of six police officers who switch after eight-hour shifts.

    Thursday's crop of detainees huddled under tarpaulins, slumped beside park play equipment and chatted in groups, their arms linked by handcuffs.

    The practice has been going on for more than two months in Colombia's capital.

    Human rights groups are calling it inhumane and parents are complaining they cannot take their kids to the park any more.

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    "We worry about safety. The children and my 9-year-old daughter can't come to the park and see this spectacle," Jaime Rojas, an engineer who lives nearby, said.

    "There are criminals who have committed all types of crime here."

    Hernando Bocanegra Molina, a lawyer for two drug-trafficking suspects, called it degrading treatment.

    Officials cannot treat human beings "as if they were animals", he said.

    The attorney general's office says the problem is a result of overcrowding at all of Bogota's six Immediate Reaction Units, which have been set up by prosecutors to efficiently deal with people arrested as suspects in crimes.

    If prosecutors deem a case has merit, the prisoner is sent to a regular jail.

    The detention centre in La Granja has a capacity to hold 70 prisoners but the number of people detained rarely falls below 100 a day.

    The director of the La Granja unit declined to comment on the situation.

    "Here the problem isn't so much the food or sleeping; the problem is hygiene - where to do our necessities," said one man being held at the park Thursday, declining to give his name for safety reasons.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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