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Police carry riot shields in front of a court building in Surabaya, Indonesia. Authorities deployed hundreds of security personnel around the court for security reasons. Trisnadi

Five go on trial for negligence over Indonesia stadium disaster

135 people, including more than 40 children, were killed in the stadium disaster.

FIVE INDONESIAN MEN charged with negligence leading to one of the worst stadium disasters in football history appeared in court by video link today as their trial began.

The crowd crush in October in the East Java city of Malang – which killed 135 people, including more than 40 children – came after police fired tear gas into packed stands when supporters invaded the pitch at the end of a match between rivals Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya.

Hundreds of people fled for narrow exits, resulting in a crush that left many trampled or suffocated to death.

Three local police officials, a match organiser and a security official were all charged with negligence for their role in the disaster, and face a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment if found guilty.

A sixth suspect – a former director of the company that runs Indonesia’s premier league – remains under police investigation.

xinhua-pictures-of-the-year-2022-world-news The stadium disaster occurred on 1 Oct, 2022 at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang regency after Arema Malang club lost to Persebaya Surabaya. Xinhua News Agency / PA Images Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

Today, authorities deployed hundreds of security personnel around the court and the trial was held virtually for security reasons.

Outside the courthouse, Rini Hanifah held up pictures of her son Agus Riansyah, one of the victims who went to watch the football match and never returned.

She called for the death penalty for those responsible.

“Lives should be paid with lives. That’s not just numbers, it’s human lives,” she said. “We need justice for my child.”

Another parent, Udin, whose daughter and her boyfriend died in the tragedy, said he also wanted those responsible to be heavily punished.

“Death sentence, that’s all,” said the man, who declined to give his last name.

Authorities told Arema FC supporters not to travel to Surabaya for the trial, for fear of clashes with police or rival fans.

Police described the 1 October pitch invasion as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors accused the police of using excessive force.

They were seen kicking and beating pitch invaders before indiscriminately firing tear gas rounds into the stands, despite football’s world governing body FIFA outlawing the use of such riot control methods at stadiums.

Indonesia’s National Police sacked the police chiefs of Malang city and East Java province after the tragedy.

The government also suspended all competitive football games after the disaster, but league matches resumed last month without fans in the stands.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered an investigation into what happened and pledged to demolish and rebuild Arema’s Kanjuruhan Stadium according to FIFA standards.

The task force investigating the crowd crush called on the football association chief and all its executive committee members to resign, but they have refused to do so.

It was one of the world’s deadliest stadium disasters since 320 people were killed in a crush at a football match in Peru in 1964.

© AFP 2023