Indonesian businessman charged in deadly stampede

September 16th, 2008 - 5:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, Sep 16 (DPA) Indonesian police Tuesday charged a businessman with negligence after his free cash handouts caused a stampede that left at least 21 people dead and dozens injured.National police spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira said that Haji Farouk will be charged with negligence resulting in death, an offence punishable with up to five years in jail.

Farouk, a member of a well-to-do Indonesian Muslim family, was involved in distributing cash handouts in the East Java district of Pasuruan, about 800 km east of Jakarta Monday.

Cash handouts to the poor are common in the world’s largest Muslim country during the fasting month of Ramadan.

Thousands of people - mostly women, children and the elderly - were lined up at the family residence to receive an equivalent of $3.7 each from the wealthy family’s patriarch, Haji Syaichon, Farouk’s father.

At first the distribution went smoothly and everyone received their allotment, witnesses said.

But a stampede ensued as the crowd rushed forward through a narrow alley to get their money, causing many to be trampled. Screaming women suffocated as they were pinned against the fence in the clamour.

Officials said the local government had received no prior information of the handout, therefore security personnel was not in place.

In addition to 21 fatalities, dozens of other women fainted or were injured in the incident, and at least 13 remained hospitalized until Tuesday, Nataprawira said.

Indonesian Muslim leaders have called on alms givers to donate to alms-collecting bodies who would then distribute their funds to avoid similar incidents.

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