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Sri Lankan Govt's Probe Panel to Question Inmates in Prison Riot That Led to 11 Deaths

 (Image for representation)

(Image for representation)

The riot broke out on November 29 over rising coronavirus infections in the Mahara prison on the outskirts of Sri Lanka's capital Colombo when some inmates tried to escape, prompting the authorities to use force.

Sri Lankan probe panel, which has been set up to investigate the prison riot that left 11 inmates dead last month, will interrogate the inmates to figure out what led to the incident. The riot broke out on November 29 over rising coronavirus infections in the Mahara prison on the outskirts of Sri Lanka's capital Colombo when some inmates tried to escape, prompting the authorities to use force. The incident happened as pandemic-related unrest has been growing in Sri Lanka's overcrowded prisons.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said they would seek medical consultant's' opinion on the alleged use of drugs prescribed for mental illness, thus making them violent. R de Silva, one of the panelists who also is an advisor to the ministry of justice, said the inmates would be interrogated on Tuesday.

De Silva said the panel's interim report was handed over to the minister of justice on Monday. The panel headed by a judge was appointed as the opposition demanded that full information on the cause of the riot needs to be made public.

The opposition claimed the rioters were only demanding PCR tests and their unrest was caused by over 180 inmates who had been COVID-19 positive cases. The government's counter was that the inmates were fighting among themselves while using overdoses of medicinal drugs where their behaviour had turned aggressive.

De Silva hinted that their initial findings were focused on both the infighting angle and the use of overdose of medicine as the triggers of the riot. There had definitely been pressures which had blown out, de Silva said. The police said in their investigation conducted so far they have interviewed over 70 people including 9 jailors.

Rohana said 7 of the 11 bodies had been identified and the police was waiting for the court ruling on whether they should be buried or cremated.

first published:December 08, 2020, 16:06 IST