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Jakarta Post

Ministry wants criminal charge laid against Palopo riot inciter

  • Bagus BT Saragih and Ina Parlina

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, December 16, 2013   /  10:35 am
Ministry wants criminal charge laid against Palopo riot inciter

Popular support: Supporters of Jakarta Governor Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo take to the streets on Sunday to support the candidacy of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician for the 2014 presidential election. JP/Wendra Ajistyatama

Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin has denied that overcrowding was to blame for a riot at Palopo Penitentiary in South Sulawesi, in which hundreds of inmates attacked correctional officers and set fire to the facility.

Amir said the riot was the result of provocation by a number of inmates.

'€œThere were 280 inmates and detainees at the facility at the time of the incident. It was not over capacity,'€ Amir told a press conference on Sunday.

A statement from the ministry said that the incident started when a prisoner, identified as Riti bin Herman, who was imprisoned for theft, hit prison guard Sri Pamudji when the officer inspected his cell in the isolation block at 10:30 a.m. local time Saturday.

Riti was said to have later incited the riot. Around 100 prisoners in the main hall ran amok and pelted stones at prison guards and set fire to the registration room and a workshop inside the facility.

According to Amir, at least 22 cells and rooms were damaged.

'€œI want the provocateur to be criminally charged for the riot and the assault on the guard, pending a police investigation,'€ the minister said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was in Japan on a state visit at the time of the incident, had been briefed about the incident by Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto, presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said on Sunday.

'€œThe President instructed Minister Djoko and other relevant officials to evaluate all penitentiaries to prevent such an incident from reoccurring,'€ Julian, who was also in the President'€™s Japan-trip delegation, told reporters shortly after arriving at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta.

Earlier on Saturday, the ministry'€™s newly installed director general of penitentiaries, Handoyo Sudrajat, said that overcrowding could be blamed for the rioting.

'€œThe capacity is 250 and there were 282 inmates at the time,'€ he said.

Handoyo, however, did not rule out the role of a provocateur.

Handoyo said that Riti probably held a grudge against prison guards for putting him in isolation.

He said the situation at the prison had been brought under control.

'€œAs of 1 p.m. local time, all prisoners have been returned to their cells. We have conducted standard measures to handle the situation. It is now under control,'€ Handoyo said.

The Palopo prison riot is the first such incident to occur since Handoyo was appointed director general of penitentiaries. Handoyo is a former top official of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Recently, a team led by Deputy Law and Human Rights Minister Denny Indrayana held an open-call test for the position in an effort to fix numerous problems plaguing the country'€™s prisons, including overcrowding, corruption and the production and distribution of illegal substances.

Indonesia has 452 penitentiaries and detention centers that collectively hold 162,011 prisoners, greatly exceeding the nominal capacity of 108,160 prisoners. Prisons across the country report an average of 150 percent overcapacity, with one guard to every 50 prisoners against the ideal ratio of one to five.

In July, a breakout occurred in Batam, Riau Islands, when 12 drug convicts fled a detention center after assaulting two prison guards. The incident took place only six days after more than 200 inmates escaped from Tanjung Gusta Penitentiary in Medan, North Sumatra, following a riot that left part of the prison burned and two prison guards and three inmates dead.

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