Over 270 inmates who fled during prison fire return to Indonesian jail

More than 270 inmates including convicted murders who fled for their lives during a prison fire return to finish their sentences in Indonesia

  • More than half the jail’s 500 convicts fled the jail in the Papua region on Monday
  • Violent rioters outside the prison in Sorong city had torched the building
  • Prison spokesman said ‘they weren’t trying to escape’ but had fled for their lives
  • Riots were were triggered by the weekend arrest of dozens of Papuan students

More than 270 inmates, including convicted murders, who fled for their lives during a prison fire have returned to finish their sentences in Indonesia.

More than half the jail’s 500 convicts fled the building when it was torched by protesters rioting outside in Sorong city on Monday.

Prison spokesman Elly Yuzar said today: ‘They weren’t trying to escape – they just wanted to save themselves from the fire.’

The riots and demonstrations in the tense region were triggered by the weekend arrest of dozens of Papuan students in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya, where they were also targeted with racial abuse.  

Rioters outside the prison on Monday set fire the building in Sorong city during demonstrations over students arrested in Surabaya city

Yuzar said of the prisoners: ‘They also worried about their families… Even convicted murderers have come back voluntarily.’ 

The convicts are even helping build a temporary office for their jailers, he added, after parts of the building were destroyed. 

In Sorong, search teams had fanned out across the city of some 220,000 in a bid to find the escaped prisoners or contact their families, Yuzar said, adding that a dozen were still on the run.

The torched prison in Sorong city on Tuesday. the day after it was set alight by rioting demonstrators

Although the jails are notoriously overcrowded and unsanitary, the authorities said they had returned because they are treated properly.

‘We’ve always treated them well and they knew that running away was not a solution – it would only make things worse,’ Yuzar replied.

‘I really appreciate their willingness to come back to prison.’

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