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RIM Indonesia chief named suspect in BlackBerry chaos

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Indonesian police named Research In Motion’s country director a suspect for negligence Monday after a BlackBerry promotion turned chaotic and left dozens injured and others knocked unconscious.

Andrew Cobham, president director for Research in Motion (RIM) in Indonesia, and British security consultant Terry Burkey were named as two of four suspects in the incident at a Jakarta mall and could face five years’ imprisonment.

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“They are named suspects of negligence causing other people to suffer injuries, as stated in the criminal code,” South Jakarta police chief of detectives Budi Irawan said.

Police will recommend negligence charges to prosecutors for the suspects’ official indictment in court.

“At this stage they are banned from leaving the country, as per the legal process in Indonesia. They have not been detained but have to report to police regularly,” Irawan said.

The mall’s security head and the event organiser were also named suspects.

More than 40 people were injured and 20 were knocked unconscious or fainted on November 25, police said, when they were caught in a crush at the promotional event for RIM’s new BlackBerry Bold 9790.

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RIM had a week earlier announced it would sell 1,000 of the new smartphones at 2.3 million rupiah ($260), half the normal retail price.

But 5,000 people turned up to the event at Pacific Place mall in central Jakarta in a scene that resembled a rock concert, waiting for hours in the heat, some since the night before.

The organisers tried to hand out bracelets to the first 1,000 people to arrive in the morning, but by midday, frustrated BlackBerry fans pushed down a barricade and ran towards the store, crushing dozens of people in their path.

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Around 300 police and security officers deployed for the event shut down the event promotion shortly after the crush.

Indonesia is RIM’s biggest market outside North America, with shipments of BlackBerry smartphones to surpass nine million units by the year end.

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RIM declined to comment Monday on the police action.

“RIM is actively cooperating with the authorities who are investigating this incident. We are also undertaking our own investigation to prevent any reoccurrence of this sort of situation,” RIM said in a statement Friday.

“After the event, staff from RIM, together with others involved in the event, visited Hospital Jakarta to extend our support and sympathy to those injured.”

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RIM has had to jump several hurdles to do business in Indonesia, being forced to block pornography on its smartphones after a campaign spearheaded by the country’s conservative communications and information minister.

Still under negotiation is the government’s demand that RIM set up a regional network aggregator data centre in Indonesia and customer-service centres.

The government also demanded the technology to intercept BlackBerry’s highly encrypted BBM messenger service.

RIM has again irked the communications and information ministry, which plans to meet with the company by mid-December to follow up on its demands and to explain how the incident occurred.

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“A company should not promote its products without considering safety. We already knew how big this could be, considering Indonesia is one of BlackBerry’s largest markets,” ministry spokesman Gatot Dewa Broto told AFP.

“Before the event, we expressed our concerns that this might happen through the media.”


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