News24

Indonesia returns foreigners to riot jail

2012-02-24 10:01

Denpasar - Foreign inmates evacuated from a jail on Indonesia's Bali Island where rioting prisoners took control this week have been returned to the facility at their request, authorities said on Friday.

Twelve convicted Australian drug smugglers and 48 other foreigners were housed together with about 1 000 other inmates at the notorious Kerobokan jail where violence broke out on Tuesday between warring gangs.

Indonesian forces stormed the jail on Wednesday to regain control after a night of arson and stone-throwing, but were later forced back.

Authorities appeared to be trying to negotiate with inmates on Friday, as water cannon and dozens of heavily armed police remained stationed outside the prison walls - fewer than the 500 riot police and military deployed the previous day.

Military chiefs had said they would move all 60 foreigners and 125 women from the Kerobokan jail, fearing for their safety.

But provincial military command spokesperson Wing Handoko said that about a dozen foreign evacuees who had left on Thursday were returned later that night and would remain temporarily at Kerobokan.

Adapting

"There was a meeting last night with the evacuated prisoners, mediated by consular staff from each country, and the foreigners said they wanted to return to Kerobokan," Handoko said.

"The evacuated prisoners were returned because they said they did not want to be transferred to another prison where they would need to adapt all over again with other inmates," he said.

Handoko did not specify the nationalities of the evacuees, but 12 convicted Australian drug traffickers are among the foreign inmates at Kerobokan, where the 1 105 inmate population is more than three times the intended capacity.

At least one of the Australians, Scott Rush, a member of the so-called Bali Nine gang of drug smugglers, had been among the evacuees.

Bambang Krisbanu, a security official at the justice ministry, said that most of the other Australians at the jail had chosen not to be evacuated, including convicted drug trafficker Schapelle Corby.

There were conflicting accounts from Indonesian officials as to whether there would be any further evacuation of foreigners from the jail on Friday.

Jail cordoned off

Krisbanu said that security at the facility had improved. However, it remained unclear whether guards had taken back control of the prison or whether the prisoners still had the upper hand.

Outside the jail, a prison chief gave instructions to blue-uniformed prison guards, who still were unable to enter the facility.

The jail, just a few kilometres from the tourist beaches of Kuta, remained cordoned off by yellow police tape.

Relatives of inmates were seen bringing food for prisoners and handing it over to jail staff outside the walls. It was unclear whether staff were distributing the food inside or passing it to designated inmates to hand out.