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Indonesian authorities brought criminal charges against six suspects, including three police officers, for their roles in last week’s stadium stampede that killed 131 people, considered one of the deadliest crowd disasters ever recorded, the Associated Press noted.
The tragedy occurred on Oct. 1 during a soccer match between two local football clubs, Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya, in the city of Malang, in the East Java province. The match ended with the defeat of Arema FC – the home team – which prompted hundreds of the soccer club’s fans to enter the field in anger.
That prompted police to fire tear gas and use batons to push back supporters, causing panic among the fans. Many tried to leave the stadium premises but could not get out because of delays in opening some exits, while other gates were too narrow for the crowd to use – resulting in many individuals getting crushed.
Officials said 40 children were among the fatalities.
The charges include negligence resulting in death or serious harm, as well as violations of Indonesian sports law and the ethical code for officials, according to National Police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo. Maximum penalties reach up to five years in prison.
An investigation by the Washington Post showed that police and poor stadium management were responsible for the stampede: Crowd control specialists told the newspaper that police fired at least 40 rounds of non-lethal munitions – including tear gas and flashbangs – “sporadically” and without a clear strategy.
They added that the police actions were in violation of national protocols and international security guidelines for soccer matches.
According to recommendations by international and regional soccer governing bodies, stadium exits must be unlocked at all times during games for safety reasons. These guidelines do not necessarily apply to domestic or national league games, but they constitute a safety norm, as is the suggestion against using tear gas as a crowd-control measure.
Amnesty International Indonesia’s Wirya Adiwena said the police’s actions represented a systematic problem in Indonesian law enforcement.
In 2020, the organization documented 43 cases of police violence during protests, including videos of policemen using tear gas in confined quarters and using water cannons at close range.