Indonesia policemen on trial for negligence over deadly soccer stampede
By Prasto Wardoyo
SURABAYA, Indonesia (Reuters) - An Indonesian court began a trial on Monday of a handful of police and match officials charged with negligence over their alleged roles last year in one of the world's deadliest soccer stadium stampedes.
The disaster, in which 135 people died, occurred at a match in October at Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java and prompted widespread questions about safety standards and the use of tear gas, a crowd-control measure banned by soccer's global governing body, FIFA.
The court in Surabaya on Monday heard the charges against three police officers, a security official and a match organiser, who each face a maximum prison sentence of five years if convicted.
The trial is being held via teleconference due to security concerns, said court spokesperson Agung Pranata.
Indonesia's human rights commission, which conducted an investigation into the stampede last November, found police fired 45 rounds of tear gas into the crowd at the end of the match, causing panic that led to the stampede.
Investigators concluded that excessive and indiscriminate use of tear gas was the main cause of the crush.
The commission said locked doors, an overcapacity stadium and failure to properly implement safety procedures exacerbated the death toll.
A lawyer for the match organiser from Arema, one of the clubs involved in the match, said his client denied all charges.
"If there is negligence it should be on the police, who fired the tear gas, not us," said Sudarman, the lawyer.
Lawyers for the police and security officers on trial were not immediately available for comment.
Rini Hanifah, whose son died in the stampede and who attended Thursday's trial, called for harsh punishment.
"My son and all the dead victims are innocent, they were just going there for fun" said Rini.
"I am very disappointed.... I had hoped for the death penalty for all five defendants."
Indonesian President Joko Widodo after the incident announced that all league matches would be suspended and that Kanjuruhan stadium would be demolished and rebuilt.
League games have since resumed but without spectators.
(Reporting by Prasto Wardoyo; Additional reporting by Ananda Teresia in Jakarta; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell, Martin Petty)