Six charged following Indonesian stadium disaster

Stadion Kanjuruhan in Malang, Indonesia

Featured image credit: BurningHill/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

Stadion Kanjuruhan in Malang, Indonesia

Featured image credit: BurningHill/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

Six people have been charged following the stadium disaster in Indonesia at the weekend that claimed the lives of at least 131 football fans.

The Southeast Asian country’s police chief, Listyo Sigit Prabowo, has said the six people have been charged with negligence causing death. They 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. “Based on the investigation and sufficient evidence, we have determined six suspects,” said Prabowo, according to the AFP news agency.

Prabowo went on to state that two of the police officers under investigation ordered colleagues to fire tear gas. The third police officer under investigation is claimed to have known about FIFA’s safety regulations that prohibit the use of crowd control gas at pitchside but did not prevent this being utilised by colleagues. The suspects face a maximum prison sentence of five years if found guilty, and more charges could be forthcoming.

Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, on Wednesday ordered an audit of all football stadia in the country following the disaster which occurred in the city of Malang on Saturday, adding that he was unsure whether the country’s hosting of the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup will be affected.

The loss of life resulted following a crush during a match at the Stadion Kanjuruhan. The incident occurred on Saturday evening as Arema FC faced Persebaya Surabaya. After fans invaded the pitch at the 42,000-capacity stadium, they were met with teargas from police. The ensuing panic led to fans rushing for the stadium’s exits, which caused the crush.

In immediate response to the incident, the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) temporarily suspended the ongoing league season and also banned Arema from playing at home for the rest of the campaign.

Widodo has ordered an investigation into what occurred, plus compensation for victims, while a task force has been created to look into the matter. Police have said the investigation is focusing on six gates at the stadium. It has claimed that the exits were open, but too small for the volume of fans attempting to pass through them.

The PSSI countered this version of events stating that some gates that should have been opened 10 minutes before the final whistle remained closed. A spokesperson said they stayed shut “because of late commands” adding that officers “had not arrived”.

Malang’s police chief was replaced on Monday, while nine officers were suspended and 19 others placed under investigation. The PSSI levied further sanctions on Arema, including banning its organising committee chairman and a security officer from football for life.

Indonesia is due to host the U-20 World Cup from May 20 to June 11 next year, but the country’s staging of the tournament is now in question. FIFA could choose to sanction the PSSI, with the role of tear gas in the disaster coming under particular scrutiny. FIFA’s stadium safety guidelines prohibit the carrying or use of ‘crowd control gas’ by pitchside stewards or police.

World football was hit by further scenes of major crowd disorder yesterday (Thursday) as one person died following violent clashes that started outside the Argentinian Primera Division match between Gimnasia y Esgrima and Boca Juniors, before spilling into the stadium and onto the pitch.

The scenes occurred at the Estadio Carmelo Zerillo in La Plata. Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in an attempt to stop fans from entering the already crowded stadium.

Eduardo Aparicio, head of a government agency tasked with preventing violence in sports, said, according to AFP: “There were about 10,000 people around the stadium trying to get in, some with tickets, some without. Everyone could see that the stadium was very full. All this is being investigated, including the actions of the police.”