Indonesian court reverses 2 policemen’s acquittal, convicts them for deadly football stampede

Arie Firdaus and Tria Dianti
Indonesian court reverses 2 policemen’s acquittal, convicts them for deadly football stampede Football fans attend a rally demanding that the Indonesian Football Association be fair in investigating last October’s deadly stadium stampede, Malang City Hall, East Java province, Indonesia, Nov, 10, 2022.
[Juni Kriswanto/AFP]

Indonesia’s Supreme Court overturned the acquittal of two policemen accused of negligence in last year’s deadly stampede at a football stadium, but the reversal brought cold comfort for victims’ families who called their light sentences a “joke.” 

The officers were sentenced to two and two and a half years in prison after prosecutors appealed against their acquittal in the case stemming from the disaster at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java province, last October. 

As many as 135 people were killed during a rush for the exit gates when police fired tear gas into the crowd after angry fans stormed the football pitch following the home side’s loss in the nighttime match on Oct. 1 last year.

“Their negligence caused the death and serious injury of other people,” according to the summary of the court’s verdict on Wednesday, which was published on its website Thursday.

The officers, Wahyu Setyo Pranoto and Bambang Sidik Achmadi, were found guilty of failing to anticipate and manage the crowd chaos at Kanjuruhan Stadium, the court found.

Wahyu, a former operations chief of the Malang police, got two and a half years in prison, and Bambang, a former head of the public order unit, was sentenced to two years in prison.

In March, a lower court had cleared the two officers of any wrongdoing. 

A woman who lost her 15-year-old son in the tragedy was outraged, saying the sentences for the two policemen were too light relative to the huge loss of life.

“It’s a joke. It’s not fair,” Cholifatul Nur, whose son Jofan Farelino, died in the stampede.

“More than 135 lives [lost], but only two years and two-and-a-half years. It’s like a punishment for cattle thieves,” she told BenarNews 

The tear gas worsened the situation and triggered a panic, which caused many of the 40,000 supporters to rush toward the exit gates, pushing and trampling each other. Authorities said many of the victims died of suffocation.

A fact-finding team set up by Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo found that tear gas fired indiscriminately by police caused the stampede. Authorities said other factors including narrow stadium gates at the exits had also contributed to the disaster.

The stampede was one of the deadliest football disasters in history. It also raised questions about the safety and security of soccer stadiums in Indonesia, where football is the most popular sport.

Muhammad Isnur, a lawyer who represents some of the victims’ families, said the Supreme Court’s verdict proved there was an error at the lower court that had acquitted the two police officers.

“Although disappointing and unfair to the victims’ families, it proves that the attempt to obscure facts on the ground did not succeed,” he told BenarNews.

Bad practices ‘not been fixed’

The verdicts against all the people charged with criminal negligence are unlikely to satisfy the stampede victims’ families and their sense of justice, said Rhenald Kasali, a former member of a government-appointed fact-finding team.

“There are still people who are responsible who have not been touched by the law. There are still many bad practices that have not been fixed and may recur,” he told BenarNews

The two policemen weren’t the only accused who received light sentences. Six people were indicted in cases related to the stampede.

In March, two football officials were sentenced to 12 to 18 months in prison, far lower than the more than six-year terms sought by the prosecution – sentences that made one victim dub the trial a “farce.”

The judges said Abdul Haris, the head of the match committee, and Suko Sutrisno, a security officer, had failed to ensure adequate security and crowd control measures at the stadium.

But they also said they considered mitigating factors such as Haris’ proposal to reschedule the match for security reasons that was rejected, and Suko’s initiative to evacuate victims.

Hasdarman, a commander of a mobile brigade unit, received an 18-month prison sentence for ordering his men to fire tear gas inside the stadium.

And a case against the sixth person, Akhmad Hadian Lukita, the director of PT Liga Indonesia Baru, the organizer of the soccer league, is still pending.

Lukita faces charges of not verifying the safety of Kanjuruhan Stadium before the match and using an outdated security inspection report. He also allegedly ignored the police’s request to reschedule the match to an earlier time for security reasons and insisted on holding it at night because of sponsor demands.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.