9 Killed in Brazil prison brawl

Brasilia, Mar 11 (EFE).- At least nine prisoners died and another 11 were injured in a brawl among inmates at a prison in the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceara, authorities said Monday.

The riot apparently arose when several inmates got into arguments Sunday afternoon while their families were visiting, Maj. Marcelo Praciano, commander of the state prison guard corps, told the media.

In the midst of the fighting, inmates set fire to a number of mattresses, Praciano said during a briefing to reporters at the prison in the suburbs of Fortaleza, capital of Ceara.

Some of the injured, who have been taken to a hospital near the penitentiary, suffered several degrees of burns from the blazing mattresses and other objects set on fire by the prisoners, the major said.

Riots and brawls in Brazilian jails are common, and authorities admit that among the factors causing them is the extreme overcrowding.

Brazilian prisons currently house some 514,000 people, almost 20 percent more than their capacity, according to reports by human rights organizations.

Various Brazilian authorities, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa, have admitted that the penitentiary system does not provide "decent conditions" for inmates.