Indonesia court overturns acquittal of two policemen over stadium deaths

MALANG – Indonesia’s Supreme Court has overturned the acquittal of two policemen accused of negligence that led to one of the deadliest stadium disasters in football history, jailing them in a decision criticised Thursday by victims’ families as too lenient.

The crush in the city of Malang last October killed 135 people – including more than 40 children – after police fired tear gas into packed stands following a 3-2 defeat for Arema FC by their fierce East Javan rivals Persebaya Surabaya.

Victims’ relatives had voiced despair and broke down in tears after an East Java court ruled in March to let the two Malang officers walk free.

But court documents shared with AFP said the pair — Bambang Sidik Achmadi, 48, and Wahyu Setyo Pranoto, 35 — had been found guilty on Wednesday of negligence causing death and injury.

The ruling came after state prosecutors filed an appeal to challenge the earlier acquittal, the documents showed.

Achmadi was sentenced to two years in prison while Pranoto was handed a two-and-a-half-year jail term.

But family members of people who died at Kanjuruhan Stadium said the decision was not harsh enough.

“It’s a joke again. It’s unfair. It’s just like being punished for stealing a cow,” Cholifatul Nur, who lost her 15-year-old son Jofan in the stampede, told AFP.

“The families of the victims are angry and disappointed,” the 40-year-old mother added.

Prosecutors claimed Pranoto ignored FIFA’s regulation prohibiting the use of tear gas at football matches, while Achmadi was accused of ordering his subordinates to fire tear gas.

“We already lost our respect because they were charged with negligence and not murder,” Imam Hidayat, a lawyer for a family who lost two teenagers in the stampede, told AFP on Thursday.

The maximum sentence for non-premeditated murder in Indonesia is 15 years in prison.

But rights groups said the ruling provided a semblance of justice for grieving relatives.

“The Supreme Court’s decision brings new hope for the families of the 135 victims and those who were injured in the Kanjuruhan Tragedy to get justice,” Amnesty International Indonesia deputy director Wirya Adiwena said in a statement.

He said the ruling should be used as a start to “overcome the culture of impunity” in cases of violence by security forces. – AFP