200 Sumatra inmates still on run

Indonesia says about 200 prisoners remain at large two days after a mass jailbreak from an overcrowded prison on Sumatra.

The escape occurred when prisoners were out of their cells at Sialang Bungkuk Prison in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau province, for Friday prayers. They broke through a prison door and forced aside the maximum of five guards on duty.

Provincial police chief Susanto said 242 men were recaptured by Sunday, leaving about 200 on the run.

Almost 80 escapees were quickly recaptured after the incident, and on Saturday the majority had been rounded up.

“So far 209 inmates have been recaptured or surrendered willingly, many have returned to their cells,” police spokesman Guntur Aryo Tejo told AFP.

Video broadcast on the television news showed a crowd of men, some wearing sarongs, running through the gates of the Sialang Bungkuk prison on Friday, with no officers visible.

Most prisoners were recaptured while still near Pekanbaru.

Many escaped inmates ran straight to another prison where they handed themselves in.

Tejo said the inmates told the police they wanted to escape due to inhumane conditions in the prison.

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 time, said director general of prisons Wayan Dusak.

“They also complained about unfair treatment by the prison guards,” Tejo said.

More than 1,000 prisoners who did not escape the jail were refusing to return to their cells unless the head guard was replaced.

There was initial uncertainty about how many inmates had escaped, with the numbers ranging from 100 to 300.

Police said some surrendered or were returned by their families while others were captured by residents, the police and military.

Sources say the prisoners suffered from poor conditions and treatment. The prison had a capacity of about 360 but according to Tejo it held more than 1,870 men.

Tejo said four of the recaptured prisoners were arrested by police on a bus heading for adjacent West Sumatra province.

Hundreds of police and soldiers have been deployed. Jailbreaks are common in Indonesia where overcrowding has resulted from poor funding and the ongoing war on drugs.

In July 2013 about 240 prisoners, including several convicted militants, escaped following a riot at a prison in Medan, the provincial capital of North Sumatra.

Picture credit: Flickr