Pressure mounts on minister over prison break

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22 August 2006 (first update 23 August)

22 August 2006 (first update 23 August)

BRUSSELS — Pressure mounted on Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx on Tuesday as she prepared to face talks with MPs and prison unions following the escape of 28 inmates from the Dendermonde jail last weekend.

The Socialist PS minister will be called to explain the alarming jail break to a hastily convened meeting of the Belgian Parliament's justice committee on Wednesday — a meeting demanded by various parties.

The green light for the meeting was given after Parliament speaker Herman De Croo decided the issue was serious enough to recall MPs back from their summer holidays to discuss the crisis.

De Croo said it was the first time since the Dutroux affair that MPs were reconvened during the August holidays, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported.

But despite the mounting crisis, none of the coalition government parties appeared prepared to let Onkelinx lose her job over the issue. This is despite the sharp criticism on Monday from Liberal VLD minister Marc Verwilghen.

Onkelinx was also scheduled to meet with prison unions and representatives of staff from the Dendermonde jail at 3pm on Tuesday to discuss safety concerns in the nation's penitentiary system.

That meeting was being held against the backdrop of extended strike action by disgruntled Dendermonde wardens.

The 24-hour strike called on Monday was initially planned to end at 2pm on Tuesday, but staff opted to remain on strike until the talks with Minister Onkelinx yield results.

The strike was sparked after 28 prisoners escaped from the Dendermonde jail on Saturday morning after locking three guards up in a prison office. Ten of the escaped detainees have since been re-arrested.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news

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