Indonesian police hunt for escaped prisoners

More than 100 inmates still at large after prison riot in North Sumatra province.

    Security forces had retaken control of the prison by Friday afternoon [AFP]
    Security forces had retaken control of the prison by Friday afternoon [AFP]

    Indonesian police has expanded their search for 131 inmates who escaped from an overcrowded jail during a riot that left five dead, a spokesman said.

    "We stepped up efforts by instructing all police forces across Sumatra island to carry out a massive hunt operation," Heru Prakoso, spokesman for the North Sumatra police, told AFP news agency on Saturday.

    Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi, reporting from Jakarta, said that inmates convicted of terror offences were among those still at large. Four of them were convicted of robbing a bank in Medan and for attacking a police compound, she said.

    More than 200 prisoners managed to escape in the chaos caused by the riots.

    Prisoners have fundamental rights that we must fulfil.

    Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesian president

    Inmates began rampaging through the jail in Medan city on Sumatra island on Thursday, setting fires and hurling bottles at guards in anger over power cuts and water shortages at the prison.

    The Tanjung Gusta jail was engulfed in towering flames, killing three inmates and two prison staff who were trapped in their office. At least 15 officers were taken hostage.

    Security forces had retaken control of the prison on Friday afternoon.

    ‘Capacity will be improved’

    About 1,000 police and soldiers were deployed to guard the facility.

    President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Saturday promised to ease overcrowding in jails.

    "We have allocated one trillion rupiah ($100m) to improve capacity of overcrowded prisons, to avoid the prison incident in Medan from recurring," he told reporters.

    "Prisoners have fundamental rights that we must fulfil, especially in this Ramadan month, when many prisoners are fasting," he said, criticising the blackout and water shortage at the jail.

    A spokesman for the justice and human rights ministry, Goncang Raharjo, said earlier that most Indonesian prisons had problems with overcrowding.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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