Hostage-taking ends at high-security French jail

Hostage-taking ends at high-security French jail
Prison officers engage in a 'riot response' exercise at the high-security 'maison centrale' prison in Arles, southern France. A prisoner has taken a guard hostage there. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP
A prisoner serving time for murder took a staff member hostage at the 'Maison Centrale' (high security prison) in Arles, southern France on Friday, before the episode ended peacefully within hours.

A prisoner took a member of staff hostage on Friday afternoon at the high security jail at Arles, in the Bouches-de-Rhone department on the Cote-d'Azur in southern France.

The episode concluded peacefully, however, within hours, after negotiations between the prisoner and members of the GIPN (Intervention group of the national police.)

According to initial reports, the prisoner in question had previously made threats to a member of staff, after he had requested a change of cell.

The area around the prison had been locked down by law enforcement, and senior officials, including the local prosecutor, arrived on the scene at around 3pm, French time, according to regional daily La Provence.

According to sources cited by French daily Le Figaro, a prisoner "armed with a fork or camping knife" took two guards captive at around 2pm French time, quickly releasing one of them.

The suspect was already serving time for more than one murder, and would have been eligible for release in the year 2024.

He had initially demanded a helicopter, the presence of members of the French media, and a change of prison, but in the end gave himself up.

The prison at Arles is one of only a handful of 'maisons centrales' – detention centres reserved for especially dangerous or troublesome convicts, serving long sentences.

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