A fire broke out on saturday at the Mahara Prison, after Sri Lankan officers opened fire in a reported attempt to control a riot in the prison. At least eight inmates have been killed and 52 injured.
The riots were allegedly caused by inmates protesting the recent surge of COVID-19 cases within the prison, as they demanded early release on bail and better facilities. Ajith Rohana, police spokesperson, claimed that guards had “used force to control an unruly situation” within the prison.
“The fire that broke out at the Mahara Prisons has been extinguished, operation still underway to bring situation fully under control,” said Sri Lankan prison officials.
According to The Island, the inmates "turned aggressive and attempted an arson attack" once they learned of the surge of COVID-19 infections, whilst the BBC reports there have been approximately 1,000 COVID-19 cases from the country’s overcrowded and prisons.
Prisoners across the islands have aired their concerns about the rising COVID-19 rates. After a covid-19 outbreak in Welikada prison in Colombo, inmates launched a protest asking to be granted bail. Further, at the Agunakolapalassa prison, inmates have been protesting for eight days, claiming that the prison’s conditions have worsened.
Inmates were also mistreated in 2008, at Mahara Prison, alongside various other prisons in Colombo, after the prison's reportedly verbally and sexually abused Tamil inmates.