Indonesian court jails two over soccer tragedy

A soccer club organiser and its chief of security have been jailed by an Indonesian court on charges of negligence leading to the deaths of 135 people when police fired tear gas inside a stadium last October, setting off a panicked run for the exits.

The disaster in Kanjuruhan Stadium in East Java's Malang city was among the world's worst sporting tragedies.

The panel of three judges at Surabaya District Court, which was under heavy police guard, on Thursday convicted Abdul Haris, the Arema FC Organising Committee chair, and the club's security chief, Suko Sutrisno, of criminal negligence causing death and bodily harm following a nearly two-month trial.

About 140 witnesses testified during the trial.

Haris was sentenced to 18 months in prison and Sutrisno to 12 months, far below the more than six years sought by prosecutors for each of them.

Presiding Judge Abu Achmad Sidqi Amsya said the defendants had not verified the safety of the stadium since 2020 and "did not prepare an emergency plan."

The crowd's panic after the tear gas was fired caused a crush at six exits, where many fans were killed, he said.

"The defendants' mistake has caused intense grief for the victims' families, as well as triggering a negative stigma for Indonesian football in the eyes of international society," Amsya said.

The judges said they considered several factors in reducing the sentences, including Haris's long involvement in advancing Indonesian soccer. Both of the defendants and prosecutors said they are considering whether to appeal the sentences. An appeal must be filed within seven days.

Three police officials who allowed or ordered the officers to use tear gas are being tried at the same court on the same charges. Prosecutors have demanded three-year prison terms and the court is expected to hand down its verdict within weeks.

At least 11 officers fired tear gas -- eight canisters into the stands and three onto the pitch -- to prevent more spectators from taking to the field after the game.