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In the early hours of Monday the police and prison service prevented a mass revolt planned and organized in 11 prisons throughout the Czech Republic, in what was the biggest ever intervention of its kind in this country. Olga Szantova reports.
The very magnitude of the planned revolt came as a shock, as well as the way it had been planned and organized. Russian speaking inmates in eleven prisons in various parts of the country had managed to communicate by mobile phones and secret messages and thoroughly organize what was to have been a mass revolt. According to Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures, though, the revolt was not planned as just a simple mass jailbreak.
"The police and prison service intercepted information about the revolt just a few days before it was to have happened. The aim was to organize a mass revolt during which the top bosses of some criminal organizations were to escape."
The whole scheme was so well planned that the organizers - prison inmates and individuals helping them from outside - even orchestrated a general hunger strike in several of the prisons involved in the planned jailbreak in order to check the effectiveness of their secret communications.
It was this that actually drew attention to the fact that there obviously was a well organized link between the prisons and their inmates. Investigations were subsequently launched and the police learned about the planned revolt. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross says that the police intervention was thoroughly prepared.
"Elite troops and rapid deployment units were on the alert in case the prisoners' mutiny happened sooner than we expected, on the basis of the information we had."
The police intervened on time and 400 members of the special police force unit and 824 members of the prison service were involved in the generally very successful operation with no casualties. The main organizers of the planned revolt, 19 of them, have been moved to special security prisons and over 1000 prisoners have been interrogated. The police and prison service are still investigating how the whole thing could have happened and how to prevent any similar things happening in the future. Of the roughly 20 000 prisoners in the Czech Republic, some 1200 are Russians, and that, says Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures, presents a risk.
"It has become obvious that the presence of foreign prisoners in our jails, especially prisoners from the former Soviet Union is a major security risk."
The justice minister would like to see the law changed to allow foreigners whose jail sentences are to be followed by extradition, to serve their sentences in the country of their origin, which, in the case of Russian criminals would mean a stricter sentence. Experts say that Russian jails are much tougher than the ones in the Czech Republic.