Denmark makes two arrests over prisoner breakout at hospital

Police have detained two people who they suspect of having helped a prisoner escape from a psychiatric hospital earlier this week.

Denmark makes two arrests over prisoner breakout at hospital
Police in Slagelse after Tuesday's breakout. Photo: Scanpix

The two men, aged 20 and 25, have denied helping to free prisoner Hemin Dilshad Saleh from a psychiatric ward in Slagelse on Tuesday, according to preliminary hearings Thursday at the town’s district court.

Defence lawyer Andro Vrlic representing the 20-year-old said that his client wishes to defend himself in court; the 25-year-old will not comment, his defence lawyer Susan Jørgensen said.

Both men denied charges against them before proceedings continued behind closed doors, thereby keeping the 20-year-old’s statement out of the public domain.

Earlier on Thursday, another man was remanded in custody for four weeks in absentia on the same grounds as the two arrested men. He is probably the same individual as a man arrested on Thursday by police in Hamburg, Germany, Ritzau reports.

The three men are suspected of planning the prisoner’s escape and carrying it out in coordination, according to allegations presented by the prosecution.

They are charged with participating in and assisting in the release of a prisoner, and also face a second charge for aggravated weapons and ammunition possession, and for pointing and threatening hospital staff with the guns.

Further, they are charged unlawful coercion for forcing two female employees to let them and Saleh out of a secure exit to the hospital.

Tuesday’s dramatic escape was made after two guns were smuggled into the hospital in a cake box, resulting in the escape of Saleh, 24.

Saleh is a leading figure in organized crime group NNV, which is connected to Copenhagen's Nørrebro area, according to Ritzau's reporting.

Shots were fired at the floor during the escape operation, and hospital staff were threatened.

Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet has reported that the authorities fear that Saleh may have fled to either Germany or Sweden. Swedish authorities have been asked to tighten border controls.

The names of the three defendants in the case have been suppressed.

READ ALSO: Danish police in fugitive hunt after prisoner escapes from hospital ward

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Denmark announces plan to cut number of prison escapes

Authorities in Denmark are to provide proposals for a new plan of action aimed at cutting down the number of prison breakouts.

Denmark announces plan to cut number of prison escapes
File photo: Johan Gadegaard/Midtjyske Medier/Ritzau Scanpix

An action plan from relevant authorities should help to ensure that far fewer escapes from correctional facilities take place in Denmark in the future, Minister of Justice Nick Hækkerup said to press on Wednesday.

Hækkerup is to ask the National Police, the Danish Prison Service (Kriminalforsorgen) and the public prosecution authority to provide recommendations and produce the plan in collaboration with health authorities.

“There have been too many prison escapes. Every time there is an escape from one of our prisons, detention centres or, as last week, from a psychiatric ward, it is a serious matter,” the minister said.

“It is totally unacceptable that we are seeing time and again that prisoners or detainees have succeeded in escaping,” he continued.

“It goes without saying that when a person is remanded in custody or serving a sentence, that person must be incarcerated, and unable to avoid this.

“It is part of our legal system that you have to take your punishment and serve it,” he said.

Last week, a prisoner escaped from a psychiatric ward in Slagelse in dramatic circumstances. Shots were fired at the floor during the escape operation, and hospital staff were threatened.

The episode is far from unique in Denmark. A 2018 Council of Europe report placed Denmark at number seven among its 47 member countries in relation to the number of escapes from open and closed prisons.

Denmark is in third place if the number of escapes from closed prisons only is considered.

“Every escape is one escape too many. But on the other hand, I think it would be too ambitious to think that we can get to a stage where there are no escapes at all,” Hækkerup said of his aims for the plan of action.

“But I am prepared to look at all options once the relevant authorities have provided their descriptions of the problem and what initiatives are needed. Because we need to stop prison breakouts,” Hækkerup said.

READ ALSO: Denmark makes two arrests over prisoner breakout at hospital