20 November 2012

Mozambique: Dozens Escape From Tete Provincial Prison

Photo: Amnesty International
File Photo: Prisoners

Maputo — The Mozambican Ministry of Justice on Monday sent a brigade from the General Directorate of Prisons (DGP) to investigate a mass break-out from the Tete provincial prison.

On Sunday, 46 prisoners escaped from the jail. The prison director, Miguel Paulino, cited in Tuesday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, said that, due to poor security, the inmates sabotaged the electricity system at about 17.00.

The paper’s report said this plunged the prison enclosure into darkness – but this is impossible, if the time reported is correct, since the sun does not set in Tete at this time of year until after 18.00.

The prisoners then destroyed the roof of one of the cells, and used the hole they had created to clamber to freedom.

Some other inmates informed the prison management of the escape, and a police unit set out in pursuit. They used tear gas and rubber bullets with the predictable result that innocent passers-by were hit, and had to be treated in Tete provincial hospital.

By midday Monday, the police had recaptured 17 of the fugitives. Among those still at large, according to Paulino, are six men regarded as extremely dangerous, who were serving sentences of 24 years for murder and armed robbery. He said the frontier guard has been alerted, in case the fugitives try to slip over Tete’s borders with Malawi, Zambia or Zimbabwe.

Paulino complained that the prison does not have enough money to employ a sufficient number of guards. It is also grossly overcrowded, accommodating 500 prisoners in premises that were built for 80.

Justice Minister Benvinda Levi said the DGP brigade should ascertain the full circumstances of the break-out, and why no measures had been taken to avoid such a situation.

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