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Six charged over Indonesia stadium disaster

Indonesia's police chief on Thursday said six people had been charged over a football stadium disaster that killed 131 at the weekend. "Based on the investigation and sufficient evidence, we have determined six suspects," national police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo told a press conference. The six people charged with negligence causing death include three police…

This picture taken on October 1, 2022 shows police gesturing at people carrying an injured man after a football match between Arema FC and Persebaya at the Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java. – Anger against police mounted in Indonesia on October 3 after at least 125 people were killed in one of the deadliest disasters in the history of football, when officers fired tear gas in a packed stadium, triggering a stampede. (Photo by STR / AFP)

Indonesia’s police chief on Thursday said six people had been charged over a football stadium disaster that killed 131 at the weekend.

“Based on the investigation and sufficient evidence, we have determined six suspects,” national police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo told a press conference.

The six people charged with negligence causing death include three police officers and three people responsible for the match and its security, including the head of Arema FC’s organising committee and one of the club’s security officers, he said.

Two of the police officers under investigation ordered colleagues to fire tear gas, he said.

The third police officer under investigation knew about FIFA’s safety regulations that prohibit the use of crowd control gas at pitchside but did not prevent tear gas being used by colleagues, he said.

The suspects face a maximum sentence of five years in prison if found guilty. Prabowo said more people could be charged.

The Indonesian football association had earlier banned the Arema FC organising committee chief and a security officer from football for life.

The announcement came as anger grew over the police response to a pitch invasion.

Officers reacted by firing tear gas into packed stands as fans of Arema FC tried to approach players following their defeat to fierce rivals Persebaya Surabaya on Saturday evening.

The police chief said 11 officers in total fired tear gas “to prevent more spectators from taking to the field” but caused spectators “to panic and… try to immediately leave the arena.”

They fired eight canisters into the stands and three onto the pitch, according to the police investigation.

– ‘Not opened completely’ –
Hundreds of people fled for small exits, resulting in a crush that left many trampled or suffocating to death. Witnesses said the gates were closed.

Prabowo said the “doors were not opened completely…and the stewards were not in place” when the match ended.

In the crush, “most of the dead victims suffered from asphyxia”.

League organiser PT LIB also “did not verify” the safety of the stadium since 2020 and the organising committee of Arema FC “did not prepare an emergency plan”, he said.

Police described the pitch invasion as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors accused them of overreacting.

Officers responded with force, kicking and hitting fans with batons, according to witnesses and footage, pushing the spectators back into the stands where many would die after tear gas was fired.

Several witnesses said police stood by and refused to help victims.

Instead, bystanders rushed to help.

– ‘Negligence’ –
Kiosk owner Edy Tanto said he saw people begin to pour out of the stadium when chaos erupted.

He rushed to provide water from his shop to victims whose eyes were stung with the tear gas, which witnesses said police had fired into the stands.

“I couldn’t think straight,” Tanto told AFP as he sat cross-legged on the floor of his shop.

“I just thought of helping them.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced an investigation after the tragedy and called for a safety review of all stadiums.

The Malang police chief was replaced Monday, nine officers were suspended and 19 others were put under investigation, according to police.

But organisers of the match and club officials have also been blamed for the chaos.

Indonesia’s football association also moved Tuesday to sanction Arema FC, fining the club 250 million rupiah ($16,420) on top of the life bans for two of its officials.

Maike Ira Puspita, the association’s deputy secretary-general, told AFP it had imposed sanctions on the club and its officials “due to the… negligence of the whole situation”.

The association has declined to comment on the police response to a pitch invasion, which has come under increasing fire since the tragedy unfolded.

The Indonesian government has suspended the country’s national football league until the investigation concludes.

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