Indonesian police chief removed, officers under investigation after fatal soccer match stampede
Indonesian police have announced that a police chief and nine officers have been removed from their posts Monday and are investigating more than a dozen police officers that fired tear gas at a Saturday soccer match, spurring a stampede that killed 125 people.
National Police spokesperson Dedy Prasetyo stated at a news conference that Malang police chief Ferli Hidayat was removed from his position, along with nine members of an elite police mobile brigade, and they will face possible dismissal following a police ethics trial.
Eighteen officers are also being investigated for firing tear gas during a match between host Arema FC of East Java’s Malang city and Persebaya Surabaya. Prasetyo said the officers ranged from middle- to high-ranking officials and were being investigated along with “internal matters related to security management.”
The police spokesperson also stated police were still in the process of questioning witnesses as well as looking into footage obtained from the 32 surveillance cameras inside and outside the stadium. Nine cellphones from victims of the stampede are currently being used to identify suspected vandals.
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The Saturday stampede was among one of the deadliest clashes at a sporting event ever. Fans had initially flooded the stadium in protest, demanding Arema management explain why the match had ended in defeat despite 23 years of undefeated home games against Persebaya.
Approximately 42,000 spectators threw bottles and other objects at players and game officials. At least five police cars were set on fire outside the stadium, with riot police then responding by firing tear gas.
Crowds of spectators began to panic and run toward the exits, resulting in the deaths of 125 individuals, including 17 children and two police officers. A majority of the victims ultimately died due to suffocation or being trampled upon.
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A total of 323 people were injured, with many still in critical condition, according to police. The Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection said seven children were currently being treated in hospitals.
President Joko Widodo previously ordered the premier soccer league to be suspended until further evaluation into safety is completed and security tightened following the tragedy. Indonesia’s soccer association has already banned Arema from hosting any other soccer matches for the remainder of the season.
Arema FC President Gilang Widya Pramana said the management, coach and players were in shock and speechless following the tragedy. “I am ready to provide assistance, even though it will not be able to return the victim’s life,” Pramana said during a news conference Monday.
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Pramana also stated Arema was prepared to take on any sanctions from Indonesia’s Soccer Association and the government, saying it would be “a very valuable lesson.”
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Likewise, Security Minister Mohammad Mahfud said he will be leading a separate inquiry to investigate violations of law in the disaster. His team will also determine victims’ compensation, stating it will take up to three weeks to settle.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.