Indonesia stadium crush trial hit by claims of intimidation

Members of Indonesia’s Mobile Brigade Corps known as Brimob – a special operations and paramilitary branch of the National Police – have tried to disrupt the trial of five people, including three police officers, over last year’s stadium crush that left 135 people dead.

Video shared on social media showed the officers, dressed in their distinctive navy-blue berets, jeering and heckling as prosecutors arrived on February 14 at the ongoing trial into the crush at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in the city of Malang.

Police, including Brimob officers, fired tear gas indiscriminately into the stands at the end of the October match between local team Arema FC and rivals Persebaya Surabaya, as fans fled in panic.

“We consider the behaviour of the dozens of Brimob officers a form of contempt of court because their attitude was disgraceful and inappropriate, and a form of intimidation against the Public Prosecutor,” Indonesia’s Legal Aid Institute, in conjunction with several other civil society groups, said in a statement on Wednesday following the court incident.

The statement added that the officers’ behaviour showed a clear abuse of power and was designed to disrupt the legal process.

The three police officers facing court are Wahyu S Wahyu, the chief of operations of the Malang Regency Police, Hasdarman, the commander of the 3rd Mobile Brigade Company of the East Java Police and Bambang Sidik Achmadi, the head of the Prevention Unit of the Malang Regency Police. Security officer Suko Sutrisno and match organising committee chairman Abdul Haris are also on trial.

The men are accused of failing to carry out basic security checks and allowing the use of tear gas in the stadium, despite its prohibition by FIFA, which regulates the sport around the world.

The men are charged under Indonesia’s Criminal Code with negligence leading to death and negligence leading to bodily harm, with the prosecution asking for prison terms of six years and eight months for the two civilian defendants. The prosecution has yet to announce its sentencing demands for the three police officers.

The case is yet another challenge for the judicial system in the face of police violence, with Indonesia’s National Police, known as Polri, also in the dock in other cases in Indonesia’s courts.

Much of the Kanjuruhan trial has taken place at the same time as the trial of Ferdy Sambo – the former head of Indonesia’s Internal Affairs department and one of the country’s most senior police officers.

On Monday, Sambo was sentenced to death for the premeditated murder of his aide-de-camp Brigadier Nofriansyah Yosua Hutabarat.

Two other police officers, Ricky Rizal Wibowo and Richard Eliezer were also sentenced to 13 years and one and a half years imprisonment, respectively for their roles in the crime, which also involved allegations of a widespread police cover-up involving dozens of police personnel.