Hundreds of officers were deployed Friday to capture more than 100 inmates who used barbells to smash windows and metal bars to escape from a prison near the capital of Indonesia’s Aceh province, police said.
The prisoners escaped Thursday night from the prison’s main hall and warehouse, and fled through rice fields in front of the complex in Lambaro, Aceh Besar regency, about 2,500 km (1,553 miles) from the Indonesian capital Jakarta, local police and justice officials said.
The inmates were out of their cells to take part in an evening Muslim prayer session in the prison’s mosque when they escaped, Banda Aceh police chief Trisno Rianto told reporters.
As of Friday afternoon, 26 of 113 inmates who escaped had been recaptured, including 25 drug convicts, Trisno said.
Aceh police spokesman Ery Apriyono said one of the fugitives, identified as Anwar, was captured at a bus terminal in Lhokseumawe, in North Aceh regency, about 300 km (186 miles) from the prison.
The head of the Justice Department in Aceh, Agus Thoyib, said officials were investigating the escape.
“Maybe they had planned it in advance because they had barbells to smash metal bars and windows,” he said, adding that 10 guards were working that night at the prison, which holds about 700 inmates. Officials did not release details about normal staffing numbers.
Meanwhile, Aceh provincial police chief Rio S. Djambak urged the fugitives to surrender within three days and urged their relatives to turn them in.
Ery warned that police would take stern action if the escapees did not turn surrender.
Sri Puguh Budi Utami, director of corrections at Indonesia’s Justice Ministry, said the escape might have something to do with stricter rules following the appointment of a new prison governor.
“We are investigating whether the stricter operational procedure contributed to the jailbreak. Even so, inmates are still allowed to pray in a congregation, as per the request of the Aceh government,” she told an Indonesian media website.
The devoutly Muslim Aceh is the only province that imposes sharia, or Islamic law.
A woman whose husband was serving nine years for a drug conviction said inmates had been treated inhumanely, including being subjected to isolation in the past few months.
“Even visiting hours have been reduced, while in the past we could stay longer,” the 38-year-old woman who declined to be identified told BenarNews.
Agus refuted the woman’s accusation.
“The prison governor and his staff have acted very humanely and paid attention to the rights of the inmates,” he said.
Elsewhere, House of Representatives member Nasir Djamil called for a review of security, noting that the prison was hit by a riot in January.
“We have asked for an evaluation of supervisory and correctional work in the penitentiary,” he told reporters after a meeting with Aceh justice department officials.
In May, five police and an inmate were killed after a riot broke out over a food complaint at the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) detention facility in Depok where convicted terrorists were held. The riot began on May 8 and the last officer held hostage was released May 10.
Last year, more than 400 inmates escaped from a prison in Riau province after a Friday prayer session.