Riot at Roumieh prison contained

BEIRUT: Two soldiers were wounded Friday morning in a riot by Roumieh prison inmates over a search operation by riot police and Internal Security Forces to confiscate sharp objects, security sources told The Daily Star.

The command center of Roumieh prison undertook a prison-wide inspection following information that inmates had possession of sharp objects, including knives and scissors.

The objects were said to have been obtained by prisoners during reconstruction of the prison following last months’ large-scale riot which resulted in the death of two inmates and injury to many others.

During the previous riot, inmates demanded an end to worsening prison conditions, general amnesty and speed in legal procedures. The riot sparked a debate over prison conditions, and eventually generated promises by the authorities to alleviate overcrowding and other problems at the facility.

The two soldiers were transferred to a nearby hospital as riot police and an ISF elite squad also known as “Fhood” (Leopards) entered the prison in an attempt to contain the riot which was concentrated on Building B. The situation was said to be back to normal by 8 a.m. this morning.

A senior security source told The Daily Star that the decision to search the prison followed reports that some doctors had been threatened two days ago in order to secure the transfer of a prisoner to an outside hospital. The 12 prison doctors then asked to end their work contract at the prison because “they couldn’t work under such conditions.”

Sources also said that the search operation would last until 6 p.m. Friday, despite the riot.

Earlier this month, prisoners took part in a hunger strike demanding general amnesty. At least 20 inmates were hospitalized as a result.

The Justice Ministry and the Interior Ministry have undertaken measures to reform the prison, although many officials have criticized the slow progress of such reforms.

Lebanon’s four-month caretaker government makes it difficult to pass any amendments to prison-related laws especially regarding the question of general amnesty.

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