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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Six face criminal charges over stadium crush

Indonesian police at the football match in Malang/ Photo Credit: Getty Images

Six people, including police officers and organisers, are facing criminal charges over a football stadium crush that killed at least 131 people, Indonesia’s police chief said.

They will be charged with criminal negligence causing death, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.

The disaster happened last week when police fired tear gas at fans who invaded the pitch after a defeat.

Hundreds tired to flee through the exits, which caused a deadly stampede.

The incident has led to public anger, with much of it directed at the police and their use of tear gas. The local police chief in Malang, where the incident took place, was fired and nine others officers were suspended.

Those now facing charges include three police officers who had tear gassed fans, the head of the home club Arema FC’s organising committee and one of the club’s security officers.

Two of the police officers had ordered their colleagues to fire tear gas, national police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo told local media. The third knew about FIFA’s safety regulations that prohibit the use of tear gas at matches but did not prevent it from being used, he added.

Authorities have said that some 2,000 officers – including several police units and soldiers – were at the stadium that night.

Videos from the incident, which took place on Saturday night in East Java, showed Arema FC fans running on to the pitch after the final whistle marked the home team’s 2-3 defeat, and police firing tear gas in response.

More than 320 other people were injured as supporters were trampled on and suffocated in crushes as they fled the gas. Indonesia’s deputy minister of children and women affairs said the victims included children between three and 17 years.

Footage online showed fans clambering over fences to escape. Separate videos appeared to show lifeless bodies on the floor.

“We [saw] these different police forces running around the pitch, brutally kicking people, hitting people. This is completely unacceptable behaviour,” Jacqui Baker, a policing expert, told the BBC after the incident.

But police said the club’s officials had not complied with safety requirements, allowing in a larger crowd than the stadium could handle. They added that the exits were too narrow for people to pass through.

The stampede is one of the worst stadium disasters ever. In the UK, 97 Liverpool fans died in a crush at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield in 1989. They were attending the club’s FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

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