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2 Indonesian soccer officials found guilty in one of the deadliest stadium stampedes

Arema FC Organizing Committee chair Abdul Haris, left, the club's security chief Suko Sutrisno, center, walk to the courtroom to attend their sentencing hearing at a district court in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, Thursday, March 9, 2023.
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AP
Arema FC Organizing Committee chair Abdul Haris, left, the club's security chief Suko Sutrisno, center, walk to the courtroom to attend their sentencing hearing at a district court in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, Thursday, March 9, 2023.

Two soccer match officials have been found guilty of negligence by an Indonesian court in connection with one of the deadliest stadium stampedes in history.

Match official Abdul Haris was sentenced to 18 months in prison and security officer Suko Sutrisno was sentenced to 12 months by the court in Surabaya, according to news services.

Both men worked for Arema FC — one of the two teams playing in the Oct. 1 2022 match at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java. The game ended with a stampede that killed 135 people, including some children, after police fired tear gas into the crowd.

Arema FB was defeated 3-2 in the match by opposing team Persebaya Surabaya — Arema FB's first home loss to their rival in 23 years. Witnesses reported that some 42,000 Arema FB supporters ran onto the pitch after the match, prompting police to fire tear gas into the crowd. Authorities told reporters that many of the dead were crushed or suffocated as they raced for the stadium exits, and that more than 300 people were injured.

Following the incident, a fact-finding team appointed by Indonesian President Joko Widodo that included government officials, security experts and soccer officials. The team found that the tear gas had been used indiscriminately and that police had used "excessive" measures, Benar News reported at the time.

The team also found out that the police on duty that day didn't know that tear gas was a banned crowd control measure by FIFA, soccer's governing body. The stadium may have been over-capacity for the match, investigators also found.

Widodo has ordered the stadium demolished.

Reuters reported that Haris and Satrisno will take time to look at the ruling before taking any further legal steps.

The stampede ranks as one of the deadliest soccer stampedes in history.

The deadliest happened in Lima, Peru, in 1964 during a match between Peru and Argentina at Estadio Nacional when the crowd attacked stadium police for assaulting a fan who had run onto the pitch to express disappointment with a referee's decision, the BBC reported. The police fought back, firing bullets and tear gas into the crowd. More than 320 people died, according to officials, as the crowd ran toward the exits, but experts think this might be an underestimate.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Westerman is a producer who occasionally directs the show. Since joining the staff in June 2015, she has produced a variety of stories including a coal mine closing near her hometown, the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh. She is also an occasional reporter for Morning Edition, and NPR.org, where she has contributed reports on both domestic and international news.