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Indonesia returns foreigners to riot-hit jail

/ 07:16 PM February 24, 2012

DENPASAR—Filipino and other 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 Friday.

Thirteen foreigners, among Kerobokan’s 60 overseas prisoners, were bussed out for their safety late Thursday but were returned after telling prison officials they did not want to serve their sentences in different jails.

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A dozen convicted Australian drug smugglers and 48 other overseas prisoners have been housed together with about 1,000 other inmates at the notorious and overcrowded Kerobokan where violence broke out Tuesday between warring gangs.

Indonesian forces stormed Kerobokan on Wednesday to regain control after a night of arson and stone-throwing, but were later forced back, with prison staff saying they were afraid to return for fear of sparking more violence.

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Nine women and four men — from Britain, Denmark, France, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Iran — were evacuated and later returned, an intelligence official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Scott Rush, a member of the so-called Bali Nine gang of drug smugglers and the only Australian evacuee, was among those back at Kerobokan, where the 1,105 inmate population is more than three times the intended capacity.

Eleven of the inmates are children, officials said without providing their ages, all of them Indonesian.

Authorities appeared to be trying to negotiate with inmates Friday, as water cannon and dozens of heavily armed police remained stationed outside the prison walls.

The jail, a few kilometers (miles) from the tourist beaches of Kuta, remained cordoned off, and although a security official said the situation inside had improved, it was unclear whether guards had regained control.

Inmates had complained of severe overcrowding at Kerobokan, and in an effort to ease congestion several Indonesian prisoners were transferred Friday, with two other empty buses on standby at the prison.

Amid uncertainty over the situation inside, relatives of inmates were seen bringing food for prisoners and handing it over to jail staff outside the prison walls.

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The fallout from the rioting saw prison chief Bono Nariwono and head of security, Anang Khuzairi, suspended on Friday for their handling of the incident, a justice ministry official told AFP.

Meanwhile a national police spokesman said Bali police chief Totoy Herawan Indra was also sacked.

Military chiefs had said they would move the 60 foreigners and 125 women inmates from Kerobokan, but provincial military command spokesman Wing Handoko said that the foreign inmates would temporarily remain at the facility.

“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 told AFP.

“They said they did not want to be transferred to another prison where they would need to adapt all over again with other inmates.”

Bambang Krisbanu, a security official at the justice ministry, said most of the Australians at the jail had chosen not to be evacuated, including infamous 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 Friday.

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TAGS: Bali, Crime, Indonesia, jail, riot
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