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Police officer jailed over Indonesia football disaster

The court handed down an 18-month prison sentence for negligence in an outcome likely to disappoint the families of the 135 deceased.

One of three police officers charged over the deadly crowd that killed 135 people in Indonesia has been sentenced to prison for negligence.

The court in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, some 780 kilometers east of the capital Jakarta, sentenced Hasdarmawan, who heads the regional unit of the paramilitary police squad known as Brimob, to 18 months in prison.

It is still announcing its verdict for the other officers charged in the disaster.

Two match officials have already been sentenced for last October’s crush, which occurred at the end of a hard-fought match between bitter rivals Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya in Malang, East Java.

Away supporters were banned from the game, but as spectators poured onto the pitch after the final whistle, police fired tear gas. Amidst the clouds of smoke, people ran to the exit gates in panic, only to find that some of the gates were locked, trapping them.

Police described the field invasion as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors accused them of overreacting.

Videos showed officers using force, kicking and beating fans with batons and shoving spectators back into the stands.

An investigative team set up by Indonesian President Joko Widodo amid national outcry over the deaths concluded that the tear gas was the main cause of the mass influx.

An investigation by Indonesia’s human rights body reached the same conclusion, saying that the use of tear gas, banned by the world governing body of football, was “arbitrary” and “excessive”.

Of the 135 people who died, 38 were under the age of 17 and the youngest was just three years old.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the head of Indonesia’s National Police, Listyo Sigit Prabowo, fired Malang’s police chief, Ferli Hidayat, and relieved nine Brimob officers of their duties.

The trial of the three officers and match officials began in January and has been dogged by complaints.

Video shared on social media last month appeared to show Indonesian police officers trying to disrupt that process, as prosecutors arrived at the court on Feb. 14.

With reporting by Syarina Hasibuan in Surabaya.