Six die in prison riot over Covid-19 panic

Newly-released Sri Lankan prisoners exit a prison complex during the country's 65th Independence Day in Colombo on February 4, 2013.
Photo of an inmate in a Colombo prison

At least six people have been killed and 52 injured after a prison riot in Sri Lanka which saw guards clash with inmates, officials have said, the inmates had launched protests amid a surge of coronavirus infections in the prisons, demanding early release on bail and better facilities.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said guards had “used force to control an unruly situation” in the Mahara prison, around 1,000 cases have been reported from the country’s overcrowded prisons. Media reports say prison guards had opened fire to contain the riot, local news reports quoted residents who said they had seen a “massive fire” on the premises. Deputy Inspector Ajith Rohana told reporters that the injured had been admitted to the local Ragama hospital. Mr Rohana added that a contingent of elite police commandos had been called to tighten security around the prison, and five police teams had also been deployed. This is the latest in a series of prison riots that have taken place in Sri Lanka in recent weeks, as the number of Covid-19 cases in jails continue to increase.

In the capital Colombo, a group of protesters in Welikada launched a protest on the top of a prison roof asking that they be granted bail.

Inmates protest on the top of a prison building, in Colombo
Inmates protested on the top of the prison building in Colombo

Another group of inmates at the Agunakolapalassa prison have been protesting for eight days, alleging that conditions in their prison have worsened. Rights groups say around 26,000 people are housed across facilities that have a capacity of around 10,000. Sri Lanka experienced a surge in virus cases last month when two clusters, one at a garment factory and another at a fish market emerged last month, according to the John Hopkins University, there are now 23,484 cases in Sri Lanka with 116 deaths reported.

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