Indonesia probes elite officers over stadium disaster

Published : 04 Oct 2022 09:45 PM

Elite Indonesian police officers were under investigation Tuesday over a stadium stampede that killed 125 people including dozens of children in one of the deadliest disasters in football history.

As public anger grew over the tragedy, police moved to punish those responsible for the crush in the city of Malang that witnesses say started when officers fired tear gas into packed stands to quell a pitch invasion.

Arema FC fans set up a makeshift centre in Malang Monday to receive legal complaints, saying they would file a lawsuit against officers for causing what they said were scores of deaths by indiscriminately targeting spectators in confined terraces.

Police described the incident as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors accuse them of overreacting.

"If there was a riot, it (the tear gas) should be fired to the pitch, not in the stand," Danny Agung Prasetyo, supporter group Arema DC's coordinator told AFP.

"Many of the victims were those who were in the stand. They were panicking because of the tear gas."

The local police chief was replaced Monday, nine officers were suspended and 19 others were put under investigation over the disaster that struck the stadium filled with only hometown Arema FC fans, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said.

The Indonesian government suspended the country's national league and announced a task force to investigate the tragedy. It said the probe would take two to three weeks to complete.

The terraces of the Kanjuruhan stadium were packed with thousands of young "Aremania", or Arema FC fans, to watch their team face fierce rivals Persebaya Surabaya.

But after a 3-2 defeat, the first at home for more than two decades to their adversaries from East Java's biggest city, fans streamed down to the pitch to speak to players and management.