Charges laid in deadly Indonesian football stampede

Charges laid in deadly Indonesian football stampede

Three police officers among six accused of negligence leading to deaths of 131 people

People walk past a banner in Malang, Indonesia, calling for an investigation into the stampede that killed at least 131 people in one of the deadliest disasters in football history. (AFP Photo)
People walk past a banner in Malang, Indonesia, calling for an investigation into the stampede that killed at least 131 people in one of the deadliest disasters in football history. (AFP Photo)

JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities have charged six people, including three police officers, over a football stadium disaster that killed 131 at the weekend.

“Based on the investigation and sufficient evidence, we have determined six suspects,” national police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo told a news conference on Thursday.

The six people charged with negligence causing death include three police officers and three people responsible for the match and its security, including the head of the Arema FC organising committee and one of the club’s security officers, he said.

Two of the police officers under investigation ordered colleagues to fire tear gas, he said.

The third police officer under investigation knew about Fifa safety regulations that prohibit the use of crowd control gas at pitchside but did not prevent tear gas being used by colleagues, he said.

The suspects face a maximum sentence of five years in prison if found guilty.

The Indonesian football association had earlier banned the Arema FC organising committee chief and a security officer from football for life.

The announcement came as anger grew over the police response to a pitch invasion at the match in Malang, East Java.

Officers reacted by firing tear gas into packed stands as fans of Arema FC tried to approach players following their defeat to fierce rivals Persebaya Surabaya on Saturday evening.

Hundreds of people fled for small exits, resulting in a crush that left many trampled or suffocating to death.

Police described the pitch invasion as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors accused them of overreacting.

Officers responded with force, kicking and hitting fans with batons, according to witnesses and footage, pushing the spectators back into the stands where many would die after tear gas was fired.

Several witnesses said police stood by and refused to help victims.

Instead, bystanders rushed to help.

Kiosk owner Edy Tanto said he saw people begin to pour out of the stadium when chaos erupted.

He rushed to provide water from his shop to victims whose eyes were stung with the tear gas, which witnesses said police had fired into the stands.

“I couldn’t think straight,” Tanto told AFP as he sat cross-legged on the floor of his shop.

“I just thought of helping them.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced an investigation after the tragedy and called for a safety review of all stadiums.

The Malang police chief was replaced Monday, nine officers were suspended and 19 others were put under investigation, according to police.

But organisers of the match and club officials have also been blamed for the chaos.

Indonesia’s football association also moved Tuesday to sanction Arema FC, fining the club 250 million rupiah ($16,420) on top of the life bans for two of its officials.

Maike Ira Puspita, the association’s deputy secretary-general, told AFP it had imposed sanctions on the club and its officials “due to the … negligence of the whole situation”.

The association has declined to comment on the police response to a pitch invasion, which has come under increasing fire since the tragedy unfolded.

The Indonesian government has suspended the country’s national football league until the investigation concludes.


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