Convicts were holding nearly 200 visitors hostage in a remote prison in Brazil's Amazon yesterday and police said they were negotiating to end the rebellion without violence.

Most of the hostages in the Urso Branco prison in Rondonia state were women, some of them pregnant.

The gang leading the uprising, which started on Christmas Day when family and friends were visiting, demanded the return of its leader, Ednildo Paula Souza, to the prison.

He escaped two weeks ago but was caught and moved to another penitentiary.

Captain Luiz Cesar of the state police said Souza would be returned to Urso Branco yesterday.

Prisoners have also demanded a prosecutor they dislike be relieved of his duties but officials did not say if they planned to grant that request.

Nobody has entered or left the prison since the rebellion started so it was not known if anyone had been killed, officials said.

In April last year, about 15 people were killed in a week-long uprising at Urso Branco. Some were decapitated.

About 200 police were standing guard outside the jail, 3,070 kilometres from Sao Paulo, South America's largest city.

Urso Branco holds 950 inmates and is considered one of the most violent jails in Brazil, which has a long history of bloody prison uprisings.

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