Aussie’s Bali jail virus fears
An Australian man held in Bali's notoriously overcrowded Kerobokan prison should be released early due to the threat posed by the coronavirus, friends say.
Will Cabantog, 36, from Melbourne, is due for release in July after serving a year for cocaine possession.
His friend David Van Iersel, 38, will be released tonight after serving nine months for the same offence.
The pair were arrested at the Lost City nightclub in Bali's trendy Canggu district last July.
Friends of Mr Cabantog are worried the coronavirus outbreak, which is threatening to overwhelm Indonesia's health system, could have a devastating effect in the prison.
A riot erupted last week in a jail in North Sulawesi where inmates were concerned about a guard who was showing symptoms of the virus.
Indonesia is releasing 50,000 prisoners who are close to the end of their sentences to try to reduce the risk, but Mr Cabantog has so far been told he must serve his remaining three months behind bars.
"I've spoken to Will and we're both worried that, due to the pandemic, Kerobokan prison does not have enough testing kits, social distancing is near-impossible due to the number of inmates and further riots might take place due to requests for mass testing,'' a friend told News Corp.
He said prison authorities were working hard to reduce the risk.
"William has reported that the prison authorities are doing all they can to prevent the outbreak by giving out sanitary supplies to all prisoners, hand sanitiser and face masks, regular decontamination sprays and temperature testing.''
However, the risk remained to all prisoners including five Australians in Kerobokan.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is providing consular assistance to Mr Cabantog and other Australians in the jail, told News Corp it was "closely monitoring developments on Indonesia's policy for the release of prisoners in response to COVID-19.''
The department said it understood the policy to release prisoners near the end of their sentences did not apply to foreign prisoners.
Indonesian Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said last week that 53 foreigners would be included in those released, but it is understood these prisoners are mostly West Papuans detained on border offences, and does not include western inmates.
Mr Cabantog's friend said his family was desperate for him to return to Melbourne before he was put at further risk by the coronavirus pandemic.
"My feeling is that no-one is coming to rescue Will and our constant requests for early release by our consulate is falling on deaf ears,'' he said.
"Will is currently fit, healthy and continually reading and teaching English to fellow inmates and studying every day, praying that he gets to see his sick mother who worked in the Australian health care system as a retired nurse for over 40 years.
"She's suffering from diabetes and arthritis and hopes and prays every day to see her soon as possible.''
Originally published as Aussie's Bali jail virus fears