APSN Banner

In Papua, 18 prisoners escape as guards riot

Jakarta Globe - May 4, 2010

Camelia Pasandaran & Nivell Rayda – A day after 18 inmates escaped while guards and their chief ran amok at a Jayapura prison on Monday, Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar pledged to conduct a full-scale inquiry into the facility's management.

The staff at Abepura Prison in the Papua capital erupted into violent protest early on Monday, smashing windows and computers in the prison office after news arrived that the warden, Antonius Ayorbaba, would be transferred to Bengkulu.

As they raged, 18 prisoners broke down the doors of the monitoring post and vaulted over the prison walls, the state-run Antara news agency reported.

"I demand an official explanation. It is inappropriate for a public official to stage a protest like that," Patrialis said on Tuesday. "A team from the ministry's inspectorate general was sent to Papua this morning to investigate."

Police in Papua are searching for the escaped convicts, while Antonius remains on the job at the prison, Patrialis said.

The minister said there was an indication that the prison officials deliberately allowed the convicts to escape. "That's not the only thing. I have received numerous reports of problems ever since Antonius became warden," he said.

He added, however, that Antonius's transfer to Bengkulu was a routine matter and was not related to job performance. A call to the prison went unanswered on Tuesday.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have submitted a complaint to Patrialis, alleging that Antonius had denied medical treatment to Filep Karma, whom the groups described as a political prisoner, for a bladder infection.

Human Rights Watch also alleged that Antonius had overseen the abuse of another prisoner, Ferdinand Pakage, who it claimed was blinded in one eye when a guard hit him with a set of keys.

In another case cited by the rights group, a prison guard allegedly used a wrench to attack a prisoner who was found in possession of a mobile phone.

In total, the group reported two dozen cases of alleged torture, violence and abuse at the prison last year.

Untung Sugiono, director general of penitentiary affairs, said last year that the group's allegations were "inaccurate," and that "the matters had been cleared with the Papua correctional office."