Indonesian authorities have placed members of the local police under investigation over their perceived role in a recent stampede that left at least 125 people dead and 320 people injured last week.
According to Nico Afinta, East Java’s police chief, the officers fired tear gas when thousands of Arema FC fans rushed to the pitch after their club suffered a 3-2 home loss to rival soccer team Persebaya Surabaya.
Panicked spectators made a dash to the exit, causing people to get trampled on or suffocated in the process.
Several advocates believe that the officers instigated the panic that led to the stampede. During a press briefing, Komnas HAM Commissioner Choirul Anam argued that if the police did not fire the tear gas, “maybe there wouldn’t have been chaos.”
Experts point out that protocols were violated since international soccer governing body FIFA prohibits the use of “crowd control gas” at matches.
Police spokesperson Dedi Prasetyo shared that the local police chief has since been transferred, and nine police officers were stripped of their positions. Meanwhile, 28 other officers who were involved in the incident remain under investigation.
The authorities are seeking more information regarding the decision to use tear gas at the stadium.
Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD revealed that they are creating a fact-finding team composed of officials, academics and soccer experts to further investigate the incident.
At least 32 of the people who died were minors, according to a government official.
President Joko Widodo has ordered the suspension of all top-flight matches in the country until the investigation has concluded.
The recent incident is considered one of the deadliest in the world in recent history. The last time significant mass death reportedly occurred during a sporting event was in 1964, when 328 people were killed in a stampede in Lima, Peru.