Indonesia Searches for Scores of Inmates After Jailbreak

Plain-clothed police officers escort recaptured inmates following their escape at Sialang Bungkuk Prison on Friday in Pekanbaru, Riau province, Indonesia. Photo: Associated Press

PEKANBARU, Indonesia — Indonesian authorities are searching for scores of inmates who escaped Friday from an overcrowded prison on Sumatra island.

Hundreds of police and soldiers were deployed near Sialang Bungkuk Prison in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau province, and were blockading roads to the capital and other provinces, said Justice and Human Rights Ministry official Wayan Dusak.

He said the escape occurred when prisoners were let out of their cells to take part in Friday prayers and overwhelmed the six guards on duty.

Local police spokesman Col. Guntur Aryo Tejo estimated the number of prisoners who escaped at 200 to 250, of whom 130 had been recaptured.

Some surrendered while others were captured by police or residents, Tejo said. He added that some were reportedly beaten by residents who found them trying to steal their motorbikes.

MetroTV showed dozens of men running from the prison and some being captured by police.

The prison, which has a capacity of 361, is holding more than 1,870 people, Tejo said.

“It seemed that many of the inmates alleged that there was discrimination in treatment of those accused of general crimes compared to special ones,” Tejo said, referring to officials and others accused of corruption who allegedly received better treatment.


In the capital, Jakarta, national police spokesman Brig. Gen. Rikwanto said the jailbreak was sparked by overcrowding.

“A riot occurred in one of the cells inhabited by 100 people because of overcrowding,” said Rikwanto, who uses a single name. “That led to a physical clash among the inmates that could not be controlled by the prison guards.”

About 300 policemen and soldiers were deployed to guard the prison.