At least 258 inmates escaped from a prison in Indonesia’s West Papua province during a rally against the treatment of Papuan students on the main island of Java, an official said Tuesday.
Thousands of people marched in West Papua on Monday and set fire to several government buildings in response to a crackdown on Papuan students in East Java who were protesting for self-determination for their homeland on Friday.
Prisoners at the state penitentiary in Sorong city, which held 547 inmates, rioted and set parts of the building ablaze after they were provoked by protesters, said the director general of corrections, Ade Kusumanto.
The demonstrators tore down an outer wall and escaped, he said.
“The protesters threw rocks at the prison, causing the prioners to riot and attack guards,” Ade said, adding that one guard was injured in the fray.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for calm on Monday, saying that the government respects Papuans’ dignity and is committed to their welfare.
Police arrested dozens of the Papuan protesters during the rally in East Java but later released them.
Papuan activists said they were subjected to harsh treatment and racist abuse.
Indonesian security forces have intensified operations in Papua after separatist rebels killed about two dozen construction workers building a road in December.
Separatists have fought for independence for the region since the 1960s.
Papua and West Papua provinces make up the Indonesian half of New Guinea island.