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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Indonesia says officers suspected of wrongdoing will face charges

Supporters of Arema Football Club mourning the victims of the stampede outside Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java, on Monday.

By Dera Menra Sijabat and Austin Ramzy

Indonesia announced Monday that it would set up a commission to investigate the deaths of at least 125 people at a soccer stadium over the weekend, adding that it hoped to identify the police officers suspected of having had a role in the tragedy within days.

As public anger mounted, Mahfud MD, the chief security minister, said that officers suspected of committing acts of wrongful violence while on duty at the stadium would face criminal charges.

The disaster, which unfolded Saturday in the city of Malang, where thousands of supporters had gathered to see the home team, Arema, host Persebaya Surabaya, has prompted widespread accusations that police actions contributed to turning minor unrest into one of the deadliest stadium catastrophes in history.

After Arema suffered a surprise 3-2 defeat, some fans ran onto the field. Officers kicked and clubbed them, then fired tear gas into the stands, witnesses said, causing people to flee into narrow exit corridors.

Mohammad Choirul Anam, a member of the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights, said that only two exits were open in the stadium and that the use of tear gas by the police appeared to have been a key factor in the crush at the exits.

The dead included 33 children aged 4 to 17, Nahar, an official at the Indonesian ministry for women’s empowerment and child protection, told The New York Times.

“I’m still thinking: ‘Did all this really happen?’” said Felix Mustikasakti Afoan Tumbaz, a 23-year-old fan whose right leg was injured when a tear-gas canister landed on him in the chaos. “How could such a tragedy occur and kill so many people?”

Listyo Sigit Prabowo, the national police chief, said Monday that authorities had opened an internal investigation and interviewed 18 officers who had fired tear gas. Military personnel who were seen hitting fans would also face punishment, Mahfud said. Ferli Hidayat, the police chief in Malang, was among nine local officers suspended Monday, a national police spokesman told a news conference.

Mahfud added that the commission’s investigation would take two to four weeks to complete. He named 10 members to the body, including two academics, two retired military officers, a former police official, a former soccer league official, a former soccer player and a sports journalist.

The investigation would consider national sports policy and the role of anyone who might have contributed to the deaths, and it would not be limited solely to those at the stadium Saturday, Mahfud said.

He noted that authorities would provide compensation of about $4,230 to the family of each victim. The average per capita income in Indonesia was $3,092 in 2020, according to World Bank figures.

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