An Indonesian court on Thursday jailed two football officials on charges of negligence in one of the worst stadium disasters in the sport’s history.
October’s crowds at a venue in the east Java city of Malang killed 135 after police fired tear gas at packed stands as fans rushed onto the pitch.
Hundreds of people fled to narrow exits, leading to a stampede in which many were trampled to death and suffocated, including more than 40 children.
Abdul Haris, the head of the game’s organizing committee, was found guilty of negligence and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The public prosecutor’s office had requested a prison sentence of six years and eight months.
“The defendant failed to read the situation and downplayed the possibility of an emergency situation or chaos,” chief judge Abu Achmad Sidqi Amsya told the Surabaya city court.
The verdict is Indonesia’s first verdict on the tragedy.
Moments later, security guard Suko Sutrisno was also found guilty of negligence and sentenced to one year in prison.
In his case, too, the public prosecutor had asked for six years and eight months.
The judge said Sutrisno “did not foresee the chaos because there had never been an emergency situation before.”
He also “didn’t understand his job as a security officer well,” added the judge.
Mochamad Munif, a father who lost his 20-year-old daughter in the tragedy, said the penalties were too lenient and unjust.
“To be honest, I can’t accept that. If it’s not the death penalty, I find it very difficult to forgive,” he told AFP.
A lawyer representing another family who lost two children told AFP prosecutors have yet to appeal.
“If they don’t do it, it will prove that justice is out of reach for the families,” said Imam Hidayat.
Sutrisno’s attorney denied that his client did not do his job properly, saying he is an expert in his field, having been in the profession since 2008.
Local media reported that Sutrisno was in charge of several stewards whose job was to guard the stadium gates.
But the security guard has previously said he was not authorized to open the doors when the crush took place.
Both men, dressed in white shirts in court, have seven days to appeal.
– Defects –
Police described the Oct. 1 pitch invasion as a riot and said two officers were among the dead, but survivors accused police of using excessive force.
Officials were seen kicking and punching fans on the field before indiscriminately firing tear gas into the stands.
World football’s governing body FIFA prohibits the use of such methods to combat unrest in stadiums.
Three local police officers have also been charged in the incident and are awaiting verdicts.
The former director of the company that runs the Indonesian Premier League has been named as a suspect and is still under investigation by police.
The tragedy has forced Indonesian officials to grapple with deficiencies in various aspects of the domestic game, which has been marred by shaky infrastructure, mismanagement and violence for years.
The Indonesian National Police fired their local chiefs for both the city of Malang and East Java province after the tragedy.
The government has also suspended all football competition matches but league matches resumed last month.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered an investigation and promised to demolish Kanjuruhan Stadium and rebuild it to FIFA standards.
A task force investigating the crush has called on the chairman of the Indonesian Football Association and all members of its executive committee to resign, but they have refused.
The game was a duel between bitter East Javanese rivals Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya, with Arema losing 3-2.
FIFA boss Gianni Infantino described the October crush as “one of the darkest days for football”.