East Java officer imprisoned over deadly soccer stadium crush

The crush in Malang, East Java, killed 135 people, including more than 40 children.



The Jakarta Post


This picture taken on Oct. 1 shows tear gas released by police among people crowded in the stands after a football match between Arema FC and Persebaya at the Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java. (AFP/STR)

March 17, 2023

JAKARTA – A Surabaya court sentenced an East Java Police officer to 18 months in prison on Thursday over negligence that contributed to one of the worst stadium disasters in the history of soccer last year, but victims’ families voiced despair as two other officers walked free.

Several relatives of those killed in the October 2022 Kanjuruhan Stadium crush broke into tears when the judge read out the verdicts on the last day of the trial, with one lawyer saying there had been “no justice” for the families.

The crush in Malang, East Java, killed 135 people, including more than 40 children, after a 3-2 defeat for local club Arema FC by its fierce rival Persebaya Surabaya.

When supporters invaded the field, police fired tear gas, causing a deadly stampede.

The man jailed on Thursday, Adj. Comr. Hasdarmawan, was a commander of the East Java Police’s Mobile Brigade (Brimob).

“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,” presiding judge Abu Achmad Sidqi Amsya told the court in Surabaya as he handed down the sentence, AFP reported.

Hasdarmawan had previously denied ordering his subordinates to fire tear gas toward the supporters.

Wearing a white shirt and a face mask, the officer listened quietly as the judge delivered the sentence, which was shorter than the three years prosecutors had asked for.

He has seven days to file an appeal.

Moments later, Adj. Comr. Bambang Sidik Achmadi, the former Malang Police operational unit head, also accused of ordering his subordinates to fire tear gas, was found not guilty by the court.

Judge Amsya said the charges had “not been proven” and that the defendant was free to go.

The court also found another Malang Police officer, Comr. Wahyu Setyo Pranoto, who was the rapid response unit head, not guilty.

Prosecutors had initially claimed Wahyu ignored FIFA’s regulation prohibiting the use of tear gas at a soccer match.

Push for independent probe

Responding to the acquittal of the two police officers, Amnesty International Indonesia (AII) reiterated calls to launch independent investigation.

“The authorities are once again failing to provide justice to victims of excessive force in Indonesia, despite vows in the aftermath of the disaster to hold those responsible to account,” AII executive director Usman Hamid said in a statement.

He noted that only a handful of people had been convicted months after a tragedy that had “shocked” the world.

“Amnesty International Indonesia reiterates its calls to launch a prompt, thorough and independent probe into the appalling actions of security forces at the stadium, where tear gas was fired into the crowd triggering a stampede at the exits.

“The families of victims are understandably distraught at the meagre results of the cases, which have fallen far short,” he added.

‘No justice’

Last week, the court sentenced the head of the match organizing committee, Abdul Haris, and security official Suko Sutrisno to 18 months and one year in prison, respectively.

The former director of the company that runs Indonesia’s premier league has also been named a suspect and remains under investigation.

“The victims have said they are not satisfied with the verdict. There is no justice for them. This has further proven that this Kanjuruhan case has been manipulated,” Imam Hidayat, a lawyer who represents some of the victims, told AFP.

Hidayat said the case was marred by inconsistencies from the beginning.

“There were so many inconsistencies, might as well declare all of them not guilty,” he said.

Several relatives of the victims broke into tears upon hearing the verdicts. 

“I am certainly not satisfied – and disappointed. I was hoping they would get a fair sentence […] I feel like justice has been shredded,” Isatus Sa’adah, who lost her 16-year-old brother in the stampede, told reporters.

Another relative of the victim said the acquittal of two defendants had hurt his family.

The National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has previously said the deaths in the Kanjuruhan stampede were caused by the use of tear gas and the police response.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo ordered an investigation and pledged to demolish and rebuild Kanjuruhan Stadium according to FIFA standards.

FIFA head Gianni Infantino in October called the crush “one of the darkest days for football”.

Indonesia is now preparing to host the Under-20 World Cup in various cities in May and June.

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