200 break out of overcrowded Indonesian prison

A prisoner being taken back by a plainclothes officer after escaping yesterday from the Sialang Bungkuk jail in Pekanbaru, Riau province, Sumatra. The inmates escaped when guards allowed them to join Friday prayers.
A prisoner being taken back by a plainclothes officer after escaping yesterday from the Sialang Bungkuk jail in Pekanbaru, Riau province, Sumatra. The inmates escaped when guards allowed them to join Friday prayers.PHOTO: ANTARA FOTO

JAKARTA • About 200 inmates broke out of an overcrowded prison in western Indonesia yesterday, rushing out of the jail after they were let out of their cells to pray, officials said.

However, almost 80 of them were recaptured soon after the incident.

The prison guards had allowed inmates to join Friday prayers, but the inmates instead headed towards the main door of the jail in Pekanbaru city, on Sumatra island, and tried to break through it.

When that failed, they fled through a side entrance and broke through a wire fence of the jail, which was guarded by only a handful of officers, Indonesia's director- general of prisons I Wayan Dusak told Agence France-Presse.

Amateur footage that was broadcast on local television stations showed scores of men, some wearing sarongs, scurrying through the gates of the Sialang Bungkuk prison, with no sign of officials in pursuit.

"About 200 escaped, but at least 77 people have been recaptured," local police spokesman Guntur Aryo Tejo told AFP.

Television footage showed a police officer in black riot gear holding one man in a headlock.

Police have put up roadblocks in the city and launched a massive manhunt for the inmates who are still on the run.

Inmates had complained about their treatment in the jail in Pekanbaru, Riau province, and accused some guards of being violent, said the Law Ministry's regional office head Ferdinand Siagian, who told Metro TV: "This triggered the incident before Friday prayers."

The male-only prison has a capacity of 300 people but was holding 1,870 inmates, with only five guards and a porter on duty at any one time, Mr Dusak said.

More than a thousand inmates who did not escape the prison were refusing to return to their cells unless the head guard was replaced.

An additional 400 police and military personnel have been deployed to guard the prison, Mr Tejo said.

Jailbreaks are common in Indonesia, where inmates are held in often unsanitary conditions in overcrowded prisons.

There was a spate of breakouts in 2013, including one where about 150 prisoners - including terror convicts - escaped from a jail on western Sumatra island.

AGENCY FRANCE-PRECISE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2017, with the headline '200 break out of overcrowded Indonesian prison'. Print Edition | Subscribe