The families of the victims in Indonesia’s deadly crowd crush are likely to feel even more anguish after two of the three police officers charged over the incident were acquitted. The tragedy occurred in October 2022, when 135 people died in a stampede at the end of a match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya in Malang, East Java. The only officer to be jailed was Hasdarmawan, who led a unit of the paramilitary police squad known as Brimob, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison for negligence. The district court in Surabaya allowed Bambang Sidik Achmadi, head of the Prevention Unit of the Malang Regency Police, and Wahyu S Wahyu, chief of operations of the Malang Regency Police, to walk free due to insufficient evidence.
The tragedy occurred when spectators flooded onto the pitch after the final whistle, and police fired volleys of tear gas. Amid the chaos, people rushed for the exit gates in panic only to discover some of the gates were locked, trapping them inside. Police described the pitch invasion as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors accused them of overreacting. Videos showed officers using force, kicking and hitting fans with batons, and pushing spectators back into the stands. An investigation team set up by Indonesian President Joko Widodo concluded that the tear gas was the main cause of the crowd surge. Indonesia’s human rights body came to the same conclusion, saying the use of tear gas was “indiscriminate” and “excessive”.
Of the 135 people who died, 38 were under the age of 17 and the youngest was just three years old. In response to the tragedy, the head of the Indonesian National Police sacked the Malang Chief of Police and relieved nine Brimob officers of their duties. The trial of the three officers and two match officials began in January and has been dogged by complaints. Video shared on social media last month appeared to show Indonesian police officers attempting to disrupt that trial, jeering and heckling as prosecutors arrived at court on February 14. The prosecution had asked for jail terms of six years for the two officials who were sentenced to one year and 18 months each. It is not known what they requested in the case of the police officers. The prosecution can appeal the verdicts.