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Stampede in Indonesia at a soccer stadium leaves at least 125 dead

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOTS)

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

That's the sound of police firing tear gas at an unruly crowd at a soccer stadium in East Java, Indonesia, last night. At least 125 people died in the stampede, and that number is being revised. And 100 more were left injured after fans ran onto the pitch at the end of a match where the host team lost. Usman Hamid is Amnesty International's Indonesia executive director. He joins us now. Welcome to the show.

USMAN HAMID: Thank you.

RASCOE: What's the latest you can update us on the situation?

HAMID: So the latest update that we obtained from our sources - from hospitals, local health centers, local media and also the families - there are more deaths identified at this time, following a riot at the football match, including children and teenagers, not to mention those injured in hospitals. There are more and more people being identified as the victims of this tragic incident.

RASCOE: FIFA is the governing body for international soccer and has banned tear gas at soccer stadiums. So do we know why tear gas was used in this situation?

HAMID: We don't know exactly, but the police claim that they have used the tear gas in - according to the law, which we disagree. I think tear gas should only be used to disperse crowds when widespread violence has occurred and when other methods have failed. People must be warned that tear gas will be used and allowed to disperse. And this is not what we saw in the last horrific incidents. And I think tear gas should also never be fired in confined spaces, like inside the stadium. And it is clear, as you said, FIFA's stadium safety guidelines also prohibits the carrying or the use of crowd control gas by pitch side steward or the police.

RASCOE: What about the stadium security management? Have they said anything about how things got so out of control?

HAMID: They told public that more than 300 were rushed to nearby health facilities to treat injuries, but many died on the way the hospital. But also, they blame some of the supporters - the losing side of the supporters as making the riot. And on the other hand, the capacity of the stadium is - I think it's not enough to have those crowds. I mean, the capacity of the stadium is only for 30,000 people, whereas we have more than 42,000 people inside the stadium. And this is still in a COVID time, in a pandemic time in Indonesia. So I don't really understand why the authorities allow for such a huge crowd to be there in the Malang stadium.

RASCOE: In the few seconds we have left, what are you calling on authorities to do?

HAMID: We call them to conduct a swift - a thorough, independent investigation, especially into the use of tear gas at the stadium and ensure that those who are found to have committed violations are tried in an open court and do not merely receive internal or administrative sanction, as what we have seen in the past.

RASCOE: Usman Hamid is Amnesty International's Indonesia executive director. Thank you so much for joining us.

HAMID: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.

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