Indonesia: Court finds soccer officials guilty over deadly football crush

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Jakarta, Indonesia
CNN
 — 

Two Indonesian soccer officials were sentenced up to 18 months in prison by a court on Thursday over a deadly stadium crush last year that killed more than 130 people and injured hundreds more in what was one of the sport’s worst disasters.

The sentences were the first jailings handed down by Indonesia’s courts over a tragedy that shocked the nation and sparked widespread anger toward local police who fired tear gas into a dangerously over-crowded stadium in the East Java province last October.

But relatives and campaigners criticised the length of the sentences and said more police officers should be in the dock.

Abdul Haris, Chairman of the Organizing Committee for soccer club Arema FC, was found guilty of negligence and responsible for selling too many tickets, exceeding the maximum capacity of the stadium. His sentence was significantly below the more than six years jail time that prosecutors had asked the court for.

Arema FC’s security officer Suko Sutrisno was sentenced to one year in prison. The maximum imprisonment for negligence in the southeast Asian country is five years.

Sutrisno told the court in January that he had been a security officer for only about three months when the tragedy occurred, according to CNN affiliate CNN Indonesia. A freelancer paid $16.19 per match, he said he had not been trained to ensure safety during soccer matches, CNN Indonesia reported.

Three police officials who are also charged with negligence will have their cases heard at a later date.

Andik Kurniawan, 32, lost his younger sister Mita Maulidiya in the crush and attended Thursday’s court hearing.

“The punishment is very light, even though there were many victims, both dead and injured,” he told CNN, adding he wanted to see more police prosecuted.

Kontras, a human rights organization advocating for six families who had loved ones killed, was also critical of the sentence.

“Some of the victims’ families cried hysterically when they called me to respond to this unfair decision,” Kontras secretary general Andy Irfan Junaidi said.

The crush began when a number of the 42,000 Arema FC supporters ran onto the pitch following their loss to rival Persebaya Surabaya.

Some clashed with police, prompting security forces to fire tear gas into enclosed areas of the stadium – a crowd control measure banned by world soccer governing body FIFA.

Most of the deaths were found to have occurred as panicked fans attempted to flee the choking smoke, triggering a crush at the exits.

Several gates were still locked minutes after the referee blew the final whistle on the night of the disaster, the Football Association of Indonesia said in a statement last year.

The game’s organizers and police authorities faced mounting criticism and allegations of mismanagement, with survivors and victims’ loved ones demanding answers.

Last year, Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo vowed to “thoroughly transform” the sport in the soccer-crazy nation, adding the football stadium where the crush took place would be demolished and rebuilt “according to FIFA standards.”

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