Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) Two Indonesian football officials were sentenced by a court on Thursday to up to 18 months in prison over a deadly stadium crush last year that killed more than 130 people and injured hundreds more in one of the sport’s worst disasters.
The verdicts were the first arrests imposed by Indonesian courts over 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, chairman of the organizing committee of football club Arema FC, was found guilty of negligence and charged with selling too many tickets, exceeding the stadium’s maximum capacity. His sentence was well below the more than six-year prison sentence demanded by the public prosecutor.
Arema FC security officer Suko Sutrisno was sentenced to one year in prison. The maximum penalty for negligence in the Southeast Asian country is five years.
Three police officers, also charged with negligence, will be heard at a later date.
Some of Arema FC’s 42,000 fans rushed onto the pitch after their defeat by rivals Persebaya Surabaya, clashed with police and prompted security forces to fire tear gas into closed areas of the stadium – a crowd control measure banned by world football’s governing body FIFA.
It was found that most of the deaths occurred as panicked fans tried to escape the suffocating smoke, leading to a scramble at the exits.
Several goals were still locked minutes after the referee’s final whistle on the night of the disaster, the Indonesian Football Association said in a statement last year.
The game’s organizers and police authorities have faced mounting criticism and allegations of mismanagement, with survivors and victims’ families demanding answers.
“It was a big mistake,” Andi Hariyanto, 32, who lost several family members in the scrum, told CNN at the time.
“Don’t you know that a lot of women and children saw the game too? I still don’t understand. What did we do that they wanted to shoot us?”
Last year, Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo vowed to “profoundly transform” sport in the soccer-mad nation, adding that the soccer stadium where the rush took place would be demolished and rebuilt “to FIFA standards”.