Sri Lankan prisons release inmates after deadly jail riot over the pandemic

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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday granted an amnesty to 637 prison inmates across the country after a jail riot sparked by rage over rising Covid cases at one of the overcrowded prisons left nine inmates dead and 113 wounded.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry stated that the country is working on further releasing thousands more in order to ease congestion in jail cells.

The move comes after prison guards opened fire at the Mahara prison just outside Colombo on Sunday night after the inmates went on a rampage demanding to be released because of increasing coronavirus cases in jails. Sri Lanka’s prisons are said to be packed with 30,000 inmates, nearly three times over their capacity, out of which about 1,200 of them have tested positive for the virus, with two deaths, as stated in the official figures.

Prison Reforms Minister Sudharshini Fernandopulle has been sacked since then and shifted to a new ministry in charge of the pandemic. The South Asian nation has seen weeks of unrest in its jails since the Covid-19 cases started soaring and the authorities banned visits and imposed travel restrictions on the staff. One prisoner even lost his life while trying to climb the wall of a jail in central Bogambara region.

The number of Coronavirus deaths across Sri Lanka increased significantly last month to 118, while infections stand at nearly 24,000.

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