Jakarta begins cyanide murder trial

Jessica surrounded by officials as she arrived at the Pondok Bambu Women's Detention Centre in East Jakarta on May 27. The murder suspect allegedly laced her friend's iced coffee with cyanide at a cafe.
Jessica surrounded by officials as she arrived at the Pondok Bambu Women's Detention Centre in East Jakarta on May 27. The murder suspect allegedly laced her friend's iced coffee with cyanide at a cafe.PHOTO: ADITIA NOVIANSYAH

Even if woman is found guilty, she will escape gallows because of guarantee to Aussie govt

The murder trial of Jessica Kumala Wongso, who is accused of poisoning her friend Mirna Salihin by lacing her coffee with cyanide at a cafe in Jakarta, begins today.

All eyes will be on the prosecutors, who are expected to present evidence that will back the state's decision to finally indict Jessica after a lengthy police investigation.

Lawyer Andi Joesoef, who is part of Jessica's defence team, maintains that his client is innocent and said he is ready to defend her, reported kompas.com yesterday.

The hearing is scheduled to start at 11am local time but the case has been in the spotlight in Indonesia since January this year, with many poring over every bit of detail that may provide a hint of what happened between the two 27-year-old former schoolmates.

According to media reports, Ms Mirna died soon after drinking an iced coffee that Jessica had apparently ordered for her when they met at a cafe on Jan 6. Police investigators later found that the drink contained traces of cyanide.

Jessica was said to have ordered the drinks before Ms Mirna and another mutual friend arrived.

Ms Mirna went into convulsions after she drank the iced coffee and died on her way to hospital.

Several theories behind what the police say was a premeditated murder have been bandied about in social media as well as news outlets from Indonesia to Australia, where Jessica has permanent residency. The trial is expected to be closely watched not just in Indonesia but also in Australia.

Both she and Ms Mirna were students at Billy Blue College of Design in Sydney but while Ms Mirna returned home, Jessica remained in Australia after graduation in 2008.

Jessica has reiterated her innocence during media interviews after she was identified as a suspect.

Indonesian police managed to acquire from their Australian counterparts a dossier of information on Jessica, details of which were never released due to the ongoing probe.

However, Jessica is unlikely to be sent to the gallows if she is found guilty of the murder.

Indonesia's Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said on Monday that the Indonesian and Australian governments had an agreement to guarantee that Jessica would not be sentenced to death.

The pact was made in exchange for giving Indonesian police full access to Jessica's legal and health information from when she was living in Australia, Mr Yasonna was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post yesterday. He added that if Indonesia had refused to give the guarantee, the case may remain unsolved.

Mr Yasonna also said he does not consider Australia's request as an interference with the court trial.

"We offer our thanks to Australia, especially if the information from Australia can add to the materials needed by the court," he said. "I hope people won't make a fuss over this guarantee."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2016, with the headline 'Jakarta begins cyanide murder trial'. Print Edition | Subscribe