January 16, (THEWILL) – An Indonesian court began a trial on Monday, for police officers and soccer match organisers, on charges of criminal negligence for their role in one of the world’s deadliest soccer stadium stampedes.
The disaster, which occurred in October of last year, at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, resulted in the deaths of 135 people and has sparked questions about safety provisions and the use of tear gas, which is banned by FIFA, soccer’s global governing body.
Five people including three police officials, one security officer, and a match organiser, will be heard in the trial. If found guilty, they face a maximum prison sentence of five years. The trial is being held via teleconference due to security concerns.
An investigation by Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission found that police fired 45 rounds of tear gas into the crowd at the end of the match, causing panic that led to the stampede. The commission concluded that the excessive and indiscriminate use of tear gas was the main trigger behind the deadly crush and that locked doors, an overcapacity stadium, and failure to properly implement safety procedures exacerbated the death count.
A lawyer for the match organiser from Arema, one of the soccer clubs involved in the match, denied the charges and said that any negligence should be attributed to the police, who fired the tear gas. Lawyers for the police and security officers on trial were not immediately available for comment.
As a result of the incident, Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, announced that all soccer league matches would be suspended, and Kanjuruhan stadium would be demolished and rebuilt. League matches have since resumed in the Southeast Asian nation, but without any spectators.
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Jude Obafemi is a versatile senior Correspondent at THEWILL Newspapers, excelling in sourcing, researching, and delivering sports news stories for both print and digital publications.