"We think it likely that these individuals, who include Black's cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange, have rallied around Black as their leader."
-- Cornelius Fudge, as reported in the Daily Prophet (OP25)
They are freed by Voldemort as he rebuilds his power. The Ministry led by Fudge blames the whole thing on Sirius Black. The Daily Prophet reports:
The Ministry of Magic announced late last night that there has been a mass breakout from Azkaban.
Speaking to reporters in his private office, Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic, confirmed that ten high-security prisoners escaped in the early hours of yesterday evening and that he has already informed the Muggle Prime Minister of the dangerous nature of these individuals.
‘We find ourselves, most unfortunately, in the same position we were two and a half years ago when the murderer Sinus Black escaped,’ said Fudge last night. ‘Nor do we think the two breakouts are unrelated. An escape of this magnitude suggests outside help, and we must remember that Black, as the first person ever to break out of Azkaban, would be ideally placed to help others follow in his footsteps. We think it likely that these individuals, who include Black’s cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange, have rallied around Black as their leader. We are, however, doing all we can to round up the criminals, and we beg the magical community to remain alert and cautious. On no account should any of these individuals be approached.’