SURABAYA - An Indonesian court jailed a policeman for 18 months on Thursday over negligence contributing to one of the worst stadium disasters in the history of football.
The crush in October 2022 in the city of Malang killed 135 people – including more than 40 children – after a 3-2 defeat for Arema FC by their fierce East Javan rivals Persebaya Surabaya.
When supporters invaded the pitch of the Kanjuruhan Stadium, police fired tear gas, causing a deadly stampede.
The man jailed on Thursday, Hasdarmawan – who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name – was a commander for the East Java police’s mobile brigade unit.
“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, capital of East Java, as he handed down the sentence.
Hasdarmawan had previously denied ordering his subordinates to fire tear gas towards the supporters.
Wearing a white shirt and a face mask, he 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, Malang police officer Bambang Sidik Achmadi, 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 the defendant was free to go.
The court also found another Malang police officer, Wahyu Setyo Pranoto, not guilty.
Prosecutors had initially claimed officer Pranoto ignored Fifa’s regulation prohibiting the use of tear gas at a football match.
Last week, the court sentenced the head of the match organising 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 as 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,” Mr Imam Hidayat, a lawyer who represents some of the victims, told news agency AFP.
Mr 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.
The tragedy forced Indonesian officials to confront the failings in various aspects of the domestic game, which has been blighted for years by shaky infrastructure, mismanagement and violence.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered an investigation and pledged to demolish and rebuild the Kanjuruhan Stadium according to Fifa standards.
A task force investigating the crush has called on the head of Indonesia’s football association and all the members of its executive committee to resign, but they have refused to do so.
Fifa head Gianni Infantino in October called the crush “one of the darkest days for football”.
The Indonesian government also suspended all competitive football games, but league matches resumed in February.
Indonesia is now getting ready to host the Under-20 World Cup in various cities in May and June. AFP