Wed, 07 Dec 2022

The police chief and at least eight other officers in the Indonesian city of Malang, where a stampede at a football stadium left 125 people dead, have been suspended, a national police spokesman said Monday.

"Based on the investigation carried out... tonight the national police chief has made a decision to relieve Malang police chief Ferli Hidayat from his duty and replace him," Indonesian national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told a televised press conference.

Eight other local police officers were also suspended, said Prasetyo, adding that 28 officers had been questioned.

Pressure had been mounting on the police over their crowd management during Saturday's Kanjuruhan stadium disaster, when officers fired tear gas in a packed stadium to quell a pitch invasion, triggering a stampede.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has ordered compensation for the families of the 125 victims, an Indonesian minister said on Monday.

"As a sign of condolences, the president will donate 50 million rupiah ($3,200) for each victim who died," chief security minister Mahfud MD told a press conference, adding the money would be given in one or two days.

Dozens of children caught in the chaos lost their lives in the tragedy, according to an official at the women's empowerment and child protection ministry.

"From the latest data we received, out of 125 people who died in the accident, 32 of them were children, with the youngest being a toddler age three or four," said Nahar, who like many Indonesians only goes by one name.

'We want justice'

The tragedy unfolded when fans of home team Arema FC stormed the pitch at the Kanjuruhan stadium after their loss 3-2 to bitter rivals Persebaya Surabaya.

Police responded by launching tear gas into packed terraces, prompting spectators to rush en masse to small gates where many were trampled or suffocated, according to witnesses.

"It felt like people were packed into a small tube with a tiny hole, and then they were smoked," said 29-year-old spectator Ahmad Rizal Habibi, who escaped before the crush.

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

"One of our messages is for the authorities to investigate this thoroughly. And we want accountability. Who is to blame?" said 25-year-old Malang resident Andika, who declined to give his last name.

"We want justice for our fallen supporters."

One witness outside the stadium said police refused to help when the crush happened.

"The place looked like a mass cemetery. Women and children were piling on top of one another," Eko Prianto, 39, told AFP.

"I ran to the police or soldier to help. There were no medics in sight. The police did not help and the soldier threatened to beat me."

Violence and hooliganism have long been features of Indonesian football, especially in places such as Jakarta, the capital, but the scale of Saturday's disaster has shocked the nation.

FIFA, which called incident a "dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension", has asked Indonesian football authorities for a report on the incident.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and Reuters)

Originally published on France24

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