Woman jailed 20 years for killing friend with poisoned coffee

A young Indonesian woman was jailed for 20 years Thursday for murdering a college friend by poisoning her coffee, capping a sensational trial that has gripped the country.

Jessica Kumala Wongso, who is also an Australian permanent resident, was found guilty of murdering Wayan Mirna Salihin.

“The defendant’s act was deplorable and sadistic because it was committed against her own friend,” presiding judge Kisworo, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told the court, which was packed with hundreds of journalists and members of the public.

Wongso, 28, told the court: “I cannot accept the verdict, it’s very unfair.”

Her legal team said they would file an appeal.

Prosecutors said Wongso murdered 27-year-old Salihin 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 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 women studied together at a design college.

The 20-year sentence was in line with what prosecutors had demanded for Wongso, who denied the charge of premeditated murder.

Prosecutors said 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”.

The defence team in the trial, which began in June, said the case against their client was weak and lacked evidence to prove guilt.

Australian authorities assisted 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.
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