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Verdict due in Indonesian ‘poisoned coffee’ murder case

Hundreds of people packed out an Indonesian court Thursday for the verdict in the sensational trial of a young woman accused of murdering her college friend 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.

Relatives of the victim, Wayan Mirna Salihin, headed into court wearing T-shirts with her face emblazoned on them and the slogan: “Justice for Mirna”.

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.

The hearing is due to begin in the afternoon and is expected to last several hours.


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