Two Indonesian football officials were sentenced to 18 months in prison by a court on Thursday over a deadly stadium crash 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 prison sentences issued by Indonesian courts for a tragedy that shocked the nation and sparked widespread anger at local police who fired tear gas at a dangerously crowded stadium in East Java province last October.
Abdul Haris, president of the organizing committee of football 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 less than the more than six years in prison that prosecutors had requested.
Arema FC’s security officer, Suko Sutrisno, was sentenced to one year in prison. The maximum prison term for negligence in the Southeast Asian country is five years.
Three police officers also charged with negligence will have their cases heard at a later date.
Several of the 42,000 Arema FC supporters rushed onto the pitch after their loss to rivals Persebaya Surabaya, clashed with police and prompted security forces to fire tear gas into closed-off areas of the stadium – a measure to disperse the crowd. control, prohibited by the world football governing body FIFA.
Most of the deaths appeared to have occurred when panicked fans tried to flee the choking smoke, causing a crush at the exits.
Minutes after the referee gave the final whistle on the night of the disaster, several gates were still locked, Indonesia’s Football Association said in a statement last year.
The game’s organizers and police faced mounting criticism and allegations of mismanagement, with victims’ survivors and loved ones asking for answers.
“It was a big mistake,” Andi Hariyanto, 32, who lost several family members in the crush, told CNN at the time.
“Don’t they know that many women and children watched the game? I still do not understand. What did we do to make them want to shoot us?
Last year, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo vowed to “deeply transform” the sport in the football-mad nation, adding that the football stadium where the crush took place would be torn down and rebuilt “according to FIFA standards.”