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8 dead in Sri Lankan prison uprising

AT LEAST eight inmates in a Sri Lankan prison died in a protest on Sunday over poor conditions that had led to a surge in coronavirus infections.

A further 52 people, including two guards, were injured as guards and prisoners clashed in the Mahara prison, about 10 miles north of capital Colombo. 

Guards opened fire and nearby residents told the media they had seen a “massive fire” at the facility.

The protesters had been demanding early release on bail and better conditions. 

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said that the guards “used force to control an unruly situation” and that a contingent of elite police commandos had been called in to tighten security around the facility along with five police teams.  

Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners lawyer Senaka Perera said the inmates had been frustrated because their pleas for coronavirus testing and separation of infected prisoners had been ignored by officials for more than a month.

In Colombo a group of inmates at Welika prison also launched a protest on top of a roof, and another group in Agunakolapalassa have been protesting for nine days, claiming that their conditions have worsened, in a series of uprisings that have taken place in Sri Lanka in recent weeks. 

More than 1,000 inmates have tested positive for Covid-19 in the country’s overcrowded prisons and at least two have died. About 50 prison guards have also tested positive.

There are about 26,000 prisoners held in facilities that have a capacity of about 10,000, according to rights groups in the country. 

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