Indonesia started moving foreigners and a handful of other inmates from an overcrowded prison on Bali yesterday after two days of rioting, officials said, as troops backed by water canons and armored vehicles surrounded the tense facility.
Schapelle Corby and several other Australians serving time for drug trafficking refused to go, saying it would be too hard to adjust to new surroundings, said Bambang Krisbanu, a security official at the justice ministry.
He said evacuations — with inmates loaded onto giant trucks — would be gradual and voluntary.
The violence that erupted late on Tuesday at the Kerobokan jail — which houses more than 1,000 drug traffickers, sex offenders and other violent criminals — was triggered by the stabbing of an inmate during a brawl a week ago.
The prisoners wanted to know how a knife made its way in. They blamed guards, saying security was too lax.
By Wednesday night, the inmates had chased away all 13 guards and seized full control of the compound, said Beny Arjanto, the local police chief.
Some climbed to the top of the watchtower and started throwing rocks and a Molotov cocktail at more than 500 soldiers and police stationed outside. Others tried to break down the front gates.
Troops responded by firing tear gas and shots in the air. Others stormed the facility, but they were forced back out 10 minutes later, Arjanto said.
A few inmates have been injured, he said, but none of them seriously. So far, all 60 foreigners were safe.
The decision to relocate them — and 120 women and 13 children — to a prison elsewhere on the island was made as it became clear yesterday that tensions were not going to ease anytime soon.
Some Indonesian prisoners also were being moved.
“We want to evacuate them immediately for their own safety,” said Colonel Wing Handoko, a military spokesman. “We need to make sure they aren’t used by other prisoners to get international attention or as bargaining chips for their demands.
“We don’t want them to be taken hostage,” he said.
Though he would not say exactly where they would go, another police officer said they were heading for Klungkung, a jail about 70km away.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media.
The Kerobokan prison is about 20 minutes from Bali’s international airport and was built for about 300 prisoners, but houses more than three times that.
Of the 60 or so foreigners, 12 are Australians and one is American, said Anang Khuzairi, a prison official.
Corby and the other Australian inmates insisted they did not want to be moved, he said.
They said they were worried it would be hard to adjust to a new prison.
“We cannot and will not force them,” Krisbanu said.