SURABAYA, Indonesia – An Indonesian court on Thursday acquitted two police officers of negligence for the deaths of 135 people in October after police fired tear gas inside a football stadium, prompting a stampede to escape. There was chaos. A third officer was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
The accident at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in the city of Malang, East Java, was one of the world’s worst sporting tragedies. Among the dead were 43 children and around 580 spectators were injured.
A panel of three judges in the Surabaya District Court, which was under heavy police protection, acquitted police officers Wahyu Setyo Pranoto and Bambang Sidik Achmadi of charges because they found no direct causal link between the defendants’ actions and the deadly mob crush found. Both were released on Thursday.
Presiding Judge Abu Achmad Siddiqui Amsya said the court found that Malang police operations chief Pranoto never ordered the use of tear gas in the match and was aware that international football governing body FIFA had advised against its use in stadiums. Was given
Amsya said the tear gas ordered by Achmadi, the head of crowd control, was aimed at the center of the pitch and spread through the air without any spectators.
“The defendant has been legally and convincingly proved not guilty,” Amarsya said.
He ordered that both defendants be released from house arrest immediately after the verdict.
However, the tear gas fired into the stands under Hasdarmawan’s direction hit the crowd at six exits, where many fans were crushed to death or suffocated and died, Amarsya said.
Like many Indonesians, Hasdarmawan uses only one name.
The court convicted Hasdarmawan, head of the East Java police’s mobile brigade unit at the time of the tragedy, of causing death and causing bodily harm by criminal negligence, concluding a two-month trial in which around 140 witnesses testified. Hasdarmawan was sentenced to 18 months – much less than the three years sought by prosecutors. He said he was considering appealing the decision.
Prosecutors said they are considering whether to appeal the cases of all three defendants. The appeal must be filed within seven days.
Thursday’s decision was protested by rights activists and the families of the victims.
Responding to the acquittal of the two police officers, Amnesty International Indonesia said authorities had failed to provide justice to victims of excessive force in Indonesia, despite a pledge to hold those responsible after the disaster.
“The families of the victims are clearly distraught over the modest outcome of the cases,” Usman Hamid, the group’s executive director, said in a statement, adding that “there is a deep and pervasive pattern of violence and abuse.” seizure of power by Indonesian security forces.
“The lack of accountability also sends a dangerous message to members of the security forces who can be assured that they can operate with a free hand and zero consequences,” he said.
Cholifatul Nur, whose 15-year-old son, Jovan Farelino, died in the stadium crush urged prosecutors to appeal the verdict.
“This decision of the court really hurts us, it is another tragedy for us who seek justice for our children,” she said with tears streaming down her face. “My dear son should not die watching football. … What if this happened to his children?”
“I will not abide by this decision, I will continue to fight until those responsible for the deadly stampede at the stadium are punished in the harshest of ways,” she said.
Authorities in Surabaya, the capital of East Java province, deployed 350 police officers to guard the court for Thursday’s decision. Arema fans, widely known as “Armenia”, were banned from coming to Surabaya during the trial to avoid any conflict.
Abdul Haris, who chairs the organizing committee for Aremaa FC – the team hosting the match – was sentenced on 9 March to 18 months in prison. The club’s head of security, Suko Sutrisno, has received 12 months. Surabaya District Court judges said the two defendants had not verified the stadium’s safety from 2020 and prepared an emergency plan to handle special cases in accordance with the 2021 Safety and Security Regulations of the Football Association of Indonesia.
On Wednesday, prosecutors said they would file an appeal to the High Court against the convictions of Haris and Sutrisno.
An investigation set up by Indonesian President Joko Widodo in response to a national outcry over the deaths concluded that tear gas was the main cause of the crowding. It said that the police on duty had no knowledge that the use of tear gas was banned in football stadiums and used it “indiscriminately” on the field, in the stands and outside the stadium, leading to the destruction of the 36,000-seat stadium. More than 42,000 spectators are harmed inside. Run for the exits – many of which were locked.