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Indonesian court jails police officer over Java stadium deaths

Indonesian court jails police officer over Java stadium deaths
March 18, 2023

An Indonesian Court has imprisoned one police officer but freed two others following a trial into last year’s stadium disaster at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, Java on 1st October.

Hasdarmawan, who led a unit of the paramilitary police squad known as Brimob, was sentenced to 18 months in prison following the deadly crowd crush that left 135 people dead.

However, the District Court in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, acquitted both Bambang Sidik Achmadi, head of the Prevention Unit and Wahyu S Wahyu, the Chief of Operations of the Malang Regency Police.

The Court decisions following two match officials having been jailed last week over the incident, which came at the end of the BRI Liga 1 (Indonesia’s top football division) match between local rivals Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya.

The deaths occurred following football fans invading the pitch before being met with tear gas from police (a crowd control measure supposedly banned by world football governing body FIFA), with the ensuing panic leading to fans rushing towards the venue’s exits, which caused a crush.

Presiding Judge, Abu Achmad Sidqi Amsya, said tear gas fired into the stands under instruction from Hasdarmawan (who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name) caused a rush to six exits where many fans were crushed or suffocated and died.

He was convicted of criminal negligence causing death and bodily harm, receiving an 18-month prison sentence, below the three years sought by prosecutors.

Judge Amsya stated “the defendant failed to predict a situation that was actually quite easy to anticipate. There was an option not to fire (the tear gas) to respond to the supporters’ violence.”

However, fellow police officers Pranoto and Achmadi were absolved of charges because it was found there was no direct causal link between their actions and the crowd crush.

Police described the pitch invasion as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors accused them of overreacting. Videos showed officers using force, kicking and hitting fans with batons, and pushing spectators back into the stands.

An investigation team set up by Indonesian President Joko Widodo amid national outrage over the deaths concluded that the tear gas was the main cause of the crowd surge.

In the wake of the tragedy, the head of the Indonesian National Police, Listyo Sigit Prabowo sacked the Malang Chief of Police, Ferli Hidayat, and relieved nine Brimob officers of their duties.

The rulings, which can be appealed, is unlikely to satisfy relatives of the victims while police officers are understood to have objected to their colleagues being charged.

Video shared on social media last month appeared to show Indonesian police officers attempting to disrupt that trial, jeering and heckling as prosecutors arrived at Court on 14th February.

The trial of another suspect, Akhmad Hadian Lukita, Head of BRI Liga 1, is yet to commence.

Images: A shrine to the dead out side the Kanjuruhan Stadium, erected by fans and relatives after last October's deaths (top) and the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java (below).

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