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Indonesia 'coffee killer' trial: Jessica Wongso found guilty of murder

Murder suspect Jessica Kumala Wongso arrives at the Central Jakarta court on 27 October 2016. Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Wongso denied all charges

A woman accused of murdering her friend by slipping cyanide into her coffee has been found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in jail by an Indonesian court, in a case that gripped the country.

Jessica Wongso, an Indonesian citizen and Australian permanent resident, said the verdict was "not fair".

The victim, Wayan Mirna Salihin, met Wongso at a Jakarta cafe in January.

She died minutes after sipping a coffee ordered by her friend. An autopsy found traces of cyanide in her body.

The trial of Wongso, dubbed by some as the "Coffee Killer", attracted intense public interest in Indonesia as well as Australia, where Wongso and Ms Salihin had met and lived for several years.

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Media captionThe BBC's Mehulika Sitepu reports from outside the court

Wongso denied all the charges and her lawyers have said they will appeal against the verdict.

Prosecutors argued she had decided to kill Ms Salihin after the latter had advised her to break up with her boyfriend.

Defence lawyers had argued that police never found cyanide in Wongso's possession, and she had never been seen spiking the coffee.

Australian police agreed to assist Indonesian police with their investigation after receiving assurances that she would not be handed the death penalty.


Intense public scrutiny - Rebecca Henschke, BBC Indonesian editor

Image caption Riot police have been deployed for crowd control

People had been queuing outside the Jakarta central court from before dawn to get a seat to witness the verdict in this murder trial that gripped the nation. Some in the crowd had travelled from other islands just be here.

Hundreds missed out on a seat and crowded around monitors watching events inside the court. Five hundred riot police were deployed to control the crowd.

Court waiting rooms were turned into TV studios. The entire month-long trial has been broadcast live on all the major stations.

The families of both the victim, Ms Salihin, and the accused have given long, passionate and tearful interviews. The broadcasting commission has criticised a number of stations, accusing them of a conducting a media trial.

Across the archipelago it is hard to find someone who does not have a strong opinion on whether Jessica Kumala Wongso is guilty or not of murdering her college friend by slipping cyanide into her coffee.


Wongso, 28, and Ms Salihin, 27, became friends when they were both studying at a design college in Sydney.

On 6 January, the two met for coffee at an upscale cafe in a mall in Jakarta, together with another college friend.

Wongso had texted earlier to say she would order drinks for all of them.

CCTV footage broadcast during the trial showed Ms Salihin arriving with the other friend and sitting down with Wongso, then taking a sip of her coffee. Within minutes Ms Salihin is seen slumping in her seat.

An autopsy later found cyanide in her stomach.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Relatives of Ms Salihin demonstrated outside the court on Wednesday
Image copyright AFP/getty
Image caption People queued from before dawn to gain entry to the courtroom

The trial has played out in packed courtrooms for the past month. Among those present on Thursday was Erikson, who had travelled from North Sumatra to Jakarta to hear the verdict.

"We have never had such an open and public court case..." he told the BBC. "The court case has created so many unanswered questions in my mind. How are we going to know the truth unless we see it for ourselves?"

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