American says he escaped Indonesian jail due to extortion

BALI, Indonesia — An American man who was recaptured after escaping from an overcrowded prison on the Indonesian resort island of Bali said Wednesday he fled because of extortion by other inmates.

Christian Beasley escaped with compatriot Paul Anthony Hoffman during heavy rain on Dec. 10 from the Kerobokan penitentiary in Bali's provincial capital by sawing through a ceiling and then climbing over a 6-meter (20-foot) -high wall behind the prison.

Hoffman, 57, from New York, who has been serving a 20-month sentence since July for robbery, was captured while trying to escape, while Beasley managed to flee and hired a motorbike driver to take him to Ubud, where he hid in a bush near a museum until midnight.

He then rode in a car to Padang Bay, a ferry port where he hired a speedboat to take him to Lombok. The 32-year-old Californian was recaptured on Saturday in an alley near a Lombok beach.

Beasley was arrested in August while allegedly trying to pick up a package containing 5.7 grams of hashish. He stood trial and the verdict was due last Tuesday, a day after his escape.

He said he has a license to use marijuana for medical reasons, but Indonesian authorities wanted him sentenced to four years or more in jail.

Appearing at a news conference Wednesday at the Badung Police station, Beasley said he was told by other inmates to pay $370 for security but he could not afford it and was punched in the stomach.

"They threatened me to pay protection money, that was why I left," said Beasley, whose legs were cuffed.

"I need help, I really need help ... Please help me, please help me. In my country (it) is not a crime use ganja (marijuana)," he shouted to journalists while being taken back into the jail by police.

Bali police detective Made Pramasetia said Beasley had planned to travel to East Timor before police discovered he was in Lombok through emails he sent to his mother and girlfriend.

Jailbreaks are common in Indonesia, where prisons are overcrowded with people convicted of drug crimes as part of the government's anti-drug crusade.

Beasley's escape was the second in Bali since June, when four foreign inmates fled through a drainage tunnel.

Two of them, Bulgarian Dimitar Nikolov Iliev and Indian Sayed Mohammed Said, were recaptured in East Timor days later and were returned to Bali. Two others, Shaun Edward Davidson of Australia and Tee Koko King bin Tee Kim Sai of Malaysia, are still at large.

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