07/12/2013, 00.00
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Prison riot in Medan: five dead, hundreds of convicts on the run

by Mathias Hariyadi
The inmates set fire to the compound and started throwing sharp objects. The protest against the lack of water and electricity has started yesterday afternoon. But there is allegedly also a request – dismissed – of reduced sentences on account of Ramadan. Some of the detainees have already been captured by the security forces.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Five casualties, including two prison guards, is the partial death toll of the riotTanjung Gusta Detention Centre, in Medan, in North Sumatra Province. The riot began at the wee hours of dawn, when at least 500 inmates - exasperated by the continuous lack of electricity and water in prison - started to shout harsh words against the warden and guards, overturning objects and setting fire to furniture and anything else handy.

The first signs of rebellion began in the late afternoon yesterday, but deteriorated in the night; finally, the prisoners set fire to the prison, while police and security forces were trying to bring the situation under control. However, still in the early hours of dawn this morning, thousands of detainees continued to "occupy" the area, with security forces ready to intervene with a blitz to retake control of the prison.

It seems that behind the revolt in jail - in addition to the problems involving electricity and water - there is the request (rejected) to the Ministry for Human Rights, of a Law, a "reduction" of the prison sentence. The request was made in sight of the holy month of Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer for Muslims, and of the anniversary of the country's independence day.

The total number of detainees at the prison in Tanjun Gusta is about 2,600 people; of these at least 200 attempted escape during the night, but a good portion has already been captured by police and placed under custody. At the moment there are evacuation procedures underway. And army rescue teams have made their entry into the building, welcomed by inmates who previously had rejected an attempted break-in by the police.

In Indonesia it is not uncommon to see riots and protests in prisons, well-known to the tabloids, on account of the overcrowding and abuses by guards, susceptible to corruption and favoritism toward certain detainees. At the end of February 2012, just such an episode occurred in the Bali detention centre, scene of a clash which followed an arson.

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