SURABAYA, Indonesia – An Indonesian court on Thursday, March 16, jailed a policeman but cleared two other officers of negligence over crowd control measures deployed at a local soccer match that led to one of the world’s deadliest stadium stampedes.
The October 2022 derby in Malang, East Java, between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya ended in chaos with 135 spectators killed, many crushed as they fled for exits after police fired tear gas into the crowd.
Last week, two Arema match officials were also jailed for negligence, in the first verdicts over the stampede.
One of the policemen, Hasdarmawan, was on Thursday sentenced to one and a half years in prison, for what Judge Abu Achmad Shiddqi Hamsya said was “negligence in causing people to die or sustain severe injuries.”
Authorities had earlier said Hasdarmawan had ordered police to fire tear gas, which soccer’s world governing body FIFA has banned as a crowd control measure.
An investigation by Indonesia’s human rights commission found the stadium was over capacity and the main cause of the stampede was police firing into the crowd 45 rounds of tear gas.
Two other officers, Bambang Sidik Achmadi and Wahyu Setyo Pranoto were cleared of wrongdoing and released on Thursday. Police had earlier said Bambang had given an order to use tear gas and Wahyu had not acted to stop it. Both had pleaded not guilty.
One of the considerations of the judge acquitting Bambang was that smoke from the tear gas was blown by the wind towards the pitch.
“It had never reached the stand,” said the judge.
Amnesty International Indonesia said authorities had again failed to provide justice.
“It sends a dangerous message to members of the security forces who may be reassured they can operate with a free hand and zero consequences,” said its director Usman Hamid.
Isa Atu Sa’adah, sister of one of the victims said the verdicts were too lenient and all those responsible should be punished evenly.
“The verdict has torn our sense of justice and humanity,” Isa said at the court.
The lawyer for the three defendants said no decision had been made on whether Hasdarmawan would appeal, while East Java’s prosecutor’s office said it was still reviewing the verdict before deciding on an appeal.
Indonesian soccer has been fraught with scandals and crowd trouble, with some key fixtures played behind closed doors due to security concerns. Indonesia is preparing to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in May. – Rappler.com
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