20 years' jail for cyanide-in-coffee killing

Wongso killed her friend after the latter advised her to break up with her boyfriend who was allegedly using drugs, the court heard.
Wongso killed her friend after the latter advised her to break up with her boyfriend who was allegedly using drugs, the court heard.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Defendant's action towards her friend was deplorable and sadistic, says Jakarta court

A Jakarta district court has found an Indonesian woman guilty of pre- meditated murder and sentenced her to 20 years' jail for killing her friend by lacing her coffee with cyanide in January.

The court said the prosecution had proven "convincingly" that Jessica Kumala Wongso, 28, committed the crime.

"Her action had caused the death of Wayan Mirna Salihin," said presiding judge Kisworo, referring to the 27-year-old victim.

"Her action towards her own friend is deplorable and sadistic... she was not remorseful and did not confess to her actions."

The packed courtoom, filled with Ms Salihin's supporters wearing "Justice for Mirna" T-shirts and pins, erupted in cheers and applause.

Wongso, 28, who remained calm as the verdict was read, called the 20-year jail sentence "unfair and excessive".

Her lawyers said they were "concerned and disappointed" with the court's decision and intended to file an appeal.

The public has followed the murder case closely since the trial began in June. Yesterday's court hearing was televised live by several Indonesian news networks.

The case has also generated interest in Australia where Wongso, an Australian permanent resident, and Ms Salihin were students at a design college in Sydney.

Australian police agreed to help only after receiving assurances that Wongso would not get the death sentence if found guilty of murder, a capital crime in Indonesia.

Wongso has maintained her innocence from the start, but the prosecution demanded a 20-year jail term for the murder of Ms Salihin, who collapsed and died after drinking the poisoned coffee at an upmarket cafe in Jakarta.

The prosecution argued that Wongso killed her friend after the latter advised her to break up with her boyfriend who was allegedly using drugs.

They also said Wongso had planned the murder "meticulously".

Agreeing, Judge Partahi Tulus Hutapea yesterday called Wongso's actions "deliberate" and "planned" as she had arrived at the cafe almost an hour early to order the drink, and behaved suspiciously.

"She appeared anxious while waiting for her friend to arrive... she also refused to taste the drink when Ms Salihin said the drink was 'awful'," he said. "The defendant is the most likely person to add cyanide in the coffee."

He threw out the defence argument that there was no proof the victim had died of cyanide poisoning, saying the 298mg of cyanide in the sip of coffee "was far greater than the lethal dosage limit".

He also said that Wongso had resented Ms Salihin for criticising her boyfriend and was jealous of her friend's happy life.

The victim's father, Mr Edi Dermawan Salihin, said of Wongso's sentence: "She has been morally punished on earth, and God will settle in the afterlife."

Said Ms Salihin's husband Arif Soemarko: "We will never be satisfied with any verdict because Mirna will never come back."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2016, with the headline '20 years' jail for cyanide-in-coffee killing'. Print Edition | Subscribe