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Jakarta Post

Hundreds of inmates escape cells in Sorong during protests against racist abuse of Papuans

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, August 20, 2019   /   03:32 pm
Hundreds of inmates escape cells in Sorong during protests against racist abuse of Papuans Corridor in an abandoned penitentiary (Shutterstock/OFFFSTOCK)

At least 258 inmates detained in Sorong Penitentiary in West Papua have escaped their prison cells after the building caught on fire during protests in the city that were in response to racist abuse being hurled at Papuan students on Java.

The inmates ran away through a broken wall after they were provoked by protesters who had thrown rocks at the penitentiary building, said a spokesman for the Law and Human Rights Ministry’s Directorate General of Corrections, Ade Kusmanto.

“Sorong penitentiary’s wall was burned and broken and some of the inmates revolted against the prison guards and managed to run away,” said Ade as reported by on Tuesday.

Out of a total of 547 inmates detained in the penitentiary, at least 258 escaped, Ade said.

At about 1 p.m. on Monday — the time when protests reportedly broke out in Sorong — shouts were heard from inside the penitentiary complex. The guards were still able to calm the inmates down.

However, tensions escalated quickly at about 4 p.m. after mobs started throwing rocks at the windows of the inmates’ cells, he said.

Subsequently, at 5 p.m., the prisoners managed to tear down the walls at the western part of the penitentiary and broke into the window of the registration office, which the inmates used as their escape route.

“We also received reports that one of our guards was wounded when assaulted by inmates who were running away,” Ade said.

The situation in the penitentiary has been calm since about 7 p.m. on Monday.

Local firefighters had been deployed to put out the flames, while penitentiary officials reviewed their records to list the escaped inmates, Ade said.

Protests broke out in several cities across Indonesia’s easternmost provinces on Monday morning, including in the Papuan town of Jayapura and the West Papuan cities of Manokwari and Sorong. 

The protesters were reacting to an incident on Sunday when Papuan students living in a dormitory in Surabaya were subjected to physical and verbal violence by security officers and members of mass organizations, who accused the Papuans of refusing to celebrate Indonesia’s 74th Independence Day over the weekend. (bry)