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Luxury prison for Bosnia’s Iron Lady

Hinseberg (Sweden), June 6 (Reuters): Only one person has ever escaped from Hinseberg women’s prison.

As its residents await the possible arrival of a new inmate in the shape of convicted Bosnian war criminal Biljana Plavsic, it is easy to see why few are tempted to leave.

The high-security prison is housed in a mansion set among tree-lined avenues, with a view of a sparkling lake.

Touring the sauna and solarium, massage room and horse-riding paddock, the visitor is struck by the high standard of its facilities.

Bathed in summer sunshine, the jail known to staff and inmates as “the castle”, is set in sylvan splendour. Nestling nearby are bungalows housing most of the 97 prisoners.

Children swim in the neighbouring lake and elderly ladies from the nearby town of Frovi chat on a quaint bridge leading up to the jail.

In the grounds there is a soothing atmosphere with casually dressed women prisoners hailing each other from oak-lined walkways.

Horses graze contentedly. Prisoners can, if they choose, go riding.

One smiling prisoner walks by in shorts and a bikini top, another in sunglasses serenely waters a flower bed.

To help them prepare to return to society, there are facilities that would be the envy of any holiday camp.

Prisoners have their own colour TV, en suite bathroom and a regulation-issue bikini each year.

There is no swimming pool — inmates are pressing for one — but there is a basketball court, solarium, sauna, state-of-art gym with workout bikes and step machines.

A prison shop sells ice cream, cigarettes and soft drinks, and there is a well-stocked library, piano room and a massage room.

Officially, Sweden will not confirm it has received a request to house the former President known as Bosnia’s “Iron Lady” who received an 11-year sentence from the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague in February.

However, officials say privately that it is being discussed and that Hinseberg, west of Stockholm, is likely to admit the 72-year-old former academic who admitted responsibility for the ethnic purge by Bosnian Serbs of Muslims and Croats in the 1992-95 war in which some 200,000 people died or went missing.

“We’ll look after her if she comes. We’ll teach her Swedish,” said head of security Kertsin Egonsson-Larsson.

To inmates, however, Plavsic’s imminent arrival was a virtual certainty.

“She’s coming. There’s no doubt about it. Any day, any second,” one prisoner said.

The prospect of Plavsic serving her sentence in one of Sweden’s notoriously “soft” prisons angers Bosnians living in the country.

“I don’t think its luxurious,” said Egonsson-Larsson, sporting sandals and red-painted toenails. “In Sweden we have high standards and prisons are built to those standards.

“I am proud of this prison because it has the human touch.”

Anna, 35, who is serving five years for drug offences, is looking forward to a summer of activities.

Last year there were salsa classes, photography and cookery.

Showing off her room with its television, stereo and computer, Anna said: “This is a hotel, really.”

Originally from Gambia, she calls her mother in Africa, sometimes twice weekly, from the ward’s telephone.

Some prisoners have their boyfriends and husbands stay over. “Why not' It’s part of life,” said Anna. Those who get pregnant have their babies in the modern hospital wing.

Next to Anna’s is the empty Cell No 1, which could end up as Plavsic’s home from home.

Life is not entirely a picnic at Hinseberg.

Prisoners work in the kitchen or do the cleaning for a tax-free wage of nine crowns (just over $1) an hour, netting $185 a month. The average wage in Plavsic’s native Bosnia is $270 a month.

And that break-out in 1992'

“We took the fence down to be replaced. She just walked out,” said Egonsson-Larsson.

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