Jakarta. A terror convict and two foreigners serving jail terms for drug offenses are among the 41 inmates killed in a blaze that destroyed a section of cells at a Tangerang prison on the outskirts of Jakarta early on Wednesday.
The list released by the Justice Ministry mentioned Diyan Adi Priyana, a repeat terror convict who was serving a six-year sentence at the prison when the incident occurred.
In December 2016, Diyan was found guilty for his role in the daylight attack by a group of militants on Jalan Thamrin, Jakarta early that year.
During the January 14, 2016 attack, two men blew themselves up at a Starbucks outlet and a nearby traffic police post and minutes later two other attackers opened fire at bystanders and Starbucks visitors. The attack killed four civilians while the four militants also died.
Diyan, 44, was an accessory to the attack by helping “clean the guns” used by the perpetrators, according to his verdict.
Known by police as a member of home-grown terror group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, Diyan had previously served another four years in a prison in East Java also for terror conviction.
The earlier conviction said that Diyan was involved in a militant group who intended to kill police officers, Shiite followers and a former minister.
Also in the prison fire death toll are Samuel Machado Nhavene from South Africa and a Portugal citizen identified as Ricardo Ussumane Embalo.
Embalo was arrested at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Tangerang in April 2011 for attempting to smuggle 4.5 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden inside a false concealment of his suitcase.
He was serving a 20 years’ imprisonment for the drug offense at the Tangerang prison when the incident occurred.
Nhavene was also convicted of meth smuggling and sentenced to 10 years in prison after his arrest at the same airport in January 2019.
There are 39 drug offenders among the death toll, which also includes a convicted murderer and a convicted terrorist, according to the Justice Ministry.
Later in the day, the Jakarta Police confirmed that they have launched criminal investigation into the deadly fire.
"We have conducted investigation at the scene and interrogated 20 witnesses as we suspect a criminal act in the fire,” said Chief Comr. Tubagus Adi Hidayat, director of the Jakarta Police general crime division.
The 20 witnesses include prison officials and surviving inmates from the block that caught fire, he added.
"Because of the criminal allegation, we are working to collect evidence, of which we already have some," he added without going into details.
"Investigation is underway. All I can say is that we retrieved wires, electrical equipment and installations from the scene. We are still investigating the source of the fire,” he said.
All witnesses were taken to the Tangerang Police Office for the questioning, he said.
Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly made a public apology to the families of the killed inmates and announced a compensation of Rp 30 million ($2,100) to each of the affected families, in addition to assistance in funeral proceedings.
"It’s a terrible disaster that neither of us ever wanted to happen,” Yasonna said.
He said a special team has been established to assist the families in handling the death bodies and burying them.
“We will be helping until all the procedures are completed, but sure the process can begin after identification works by the National Police forensic team are concluded,” he said.
He also promised “the best medical treatment” for the injured inmates.
The fire, that began at around 1:45 Jakarta time, destroyed the Block C2 in the prison, which was built in 1972. Of 19 cells in the block, 12 were completely destroyed.
There were 122 inmates in the block at the time of the incident. Overall, the prison housed 2,072 inmates when the incident occured, according to the Justice Ministry.
“Most of the victims were trapped in their locked cells,” said Rika Aprianti, a spokeswoman for the ministry’s correctional directorate.
The deadly fire was a tragic end for 25-year-old Petra Eka, who was only five months from his release.
“The last time he messaged me was on Saturday night, when he wrote ‘Thank you Mama for sending me money’,” his mother, Evi Nilasari, told reporters.
She said she learned the news from her husband and that she rushed to the prison upon knowing that the fire affected the block where Petra was being held for a drug offense conviction.
“I knew my son was in Block C2 and soon I learned that my son was on the list of the casualty toll,” a tearful Evi said.
“I’m so sad because we’re supposed to reunite in five months.”