Indonesian woman gets 20 years for poisoned-coffee murder

Indonesian murder suspect Jessica Kumala Wongso arrives at the court prior to her trial at the Central Jakarta court to hear the judges verdict on October 27, 2016. Hundreds of people packed out an Indonesian court for the verdict in the sensational trial of a young woman accused of murdering her college friend with poisoned coffee at an upmarket cafe.

JAKARTA - An Indonesian court jailed a woman for 20 years on Thursday for murdering her college friend by poisoning her coffee, ending a dramatic case that gripped the country for months.

Jessica Kumala Wongso, 27, an Indonesian citizen and permanent resident of Australia, remained expressionless while hearing the verdict and sentence.

"The defendant has been proven guilty of premeditated murder," presiding judge Kisworo said to applause from a packed courtroom without suggesting a motive.

"...The murder was vile and sadistic because the defendant did it to her own friend." Wongso told the three-judge panel she thought the verdict was "unfair and one-sided".

Defence lawyers said she would appeal.

Poisoned coffee case in Indonesia draws nationwide interest

  • Hundreds of people packed out an Indonesian court on October 27 for the verdict in the sensational trial of Jessica Kumala Wongso, a young woman accused of murdering her college friend Mirna with poisoned coffee at an upmarket cafe.
  • Police were deployed around the Jakarta court as Jessica Kumala Wongso, who is an Indonesian citizen and also an Australian permanent resident, arrived in a van and was ushered inside through a media scrum.
  • Wongso, 28, is accused of murdering Salihin, 27, in January by slipping cyanide into her Vietnamese iced coffee in a cafe at one of Jakarta's fanciest malls. The victim collapsed after consuming the drink and died shortly afterwards.
  • The soap opera-style tale of two members of the wealthy elite allegedly having a dramatic fallout that culminated in murder has captivated Indonesia, where it has been dubbed "the poisoned coffee" case.
  • It has also generated huge interest in Australia, where the victim and alleged murderer studied together at a design college.
  • Prosecutors have demanded a 20-year jail term for Wongso, who denies a charge of premeditated murder.
  • They allege Wongso decided to murder Salihin after she advised the defendant to break up with a boyfriend as he was using drugs, and the crime was planned "meticulously".
  • "I hope for a fair sentence," Salihin's husband, Arief Soemarko, told AFP as he arrived at court. "We hope the judges can give us justice." Wongso earlier this month broke down in tears in court as she rejected the allegations.
  • The defence team in the trial, which began in June, asserts the case against their client is weak and lacks evidence to prove guilt.
  • Australian authorities agreed to assist with the case after receiving assurances that Wongso would not be handed the death penalty if found guilty of murder, a capital crime in Indonesia.
  • Relatives of victim Wayan Mirna Salihin hold signs outside the Central Jakarta court on October 27, 2016.

The two women had been meeting at a cafe in a central Jakarta mall when victim Wayan Mirna Salihin took a sip of a cyanide-laced drink, collapsed on the floor and went into convulsions, according to prosecutors. She died by the time she arrived at hospital.

Dozens of police were positioned around the Central Jakarta courtroom as crowds scrambled to get in to hear the verdict.

The trial had heard testimony from a string of forensic and psychological experts and the case has generated headlines since Wongso was arrested earlier this year.

President Joko Widodo's administration waded into the case, saying Wongso would not be executed if she got the death penalty, according to media. The deal was made with Australia in order for Australian police to assist in the investigation.