Australian Woman Jessica Wongso 'Could Face Death Penalty' Over Alleged Cyanide Murder

Wongso is alleged to have used cyanide to kill her friend.

01/06/2016 11:17 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
Jessica Kumala Wongso who is accused of murdering friend Wayan Mirna Salihin in Indonesia

An Australian resident could face the death penalty in Indonesia after a court revealed there is no agreement to prevent the punishment, despite the Australian government saying one is in place.

Jessica Kumala Wongso, 27, is shortly expected to face trial accused of murdering her friend, Mirna Salihin, with cyanide in a Jakarta cafe in January.

Salihin died on her way to hospital, shortly after taking a sip of coffee on January 6.

Shortly after Wongso's arrest Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan said he approved the Australian Federal Police's assistance in the case because there was an agreement she would not get the death penalty.

But on Wednesday the ABC reported District Court Judge and spokesman for the Central Jakarta District Court, Jamaluddin Samosir, as saying the Indonesian justice system "does not recognise that kind of deal".

"No such deal is possible in our system," Judge Jamaluddin said.

"The judges can decide any penalty they want. We are independent, there can be no intervention."

Comment has been sought from Keenan's office.

Comment has also been sought from the attorney general's office, who earlier told the "Indonesian government has given an assurance to the Australian Government that the death penalty will not be sought, nor carried out in relation to the alleged offending".

"Australian Federal Police continue to assist the Indonesian National Police with its investigation ... For operational reasons it would not be appropriate to comment further."

Wayan Mirna Salihin (right) and Wongso had reportedly drifted apart before Salihin died

Wongso has denied killing her friend and has vowed to clear her name, while her lawyer has reportedly questioned the autopsy.

In February Indonesia guaranteed Wongso would not face the death penalty, while Keenan agreed to the Australian Federal Police assisting with the case by helping Indonesia speak to friends of Wongso and also enhancing the CCTV footage in the cafe.

"The Indonesian government has given an assurance to the Australian government that the death penalty will not be sought nor carried out in relation to the alleged offending," a spokeswoman for Keenan said at the time.

The statement was backed at the time by a Jakarta police detective and the Australian Attorney General's office.

At the time Fairfax also reported the Australian government had a ministerial-level, written undertaking that Wongso would not face the death penalty.

Australia has been sensitive about the role of the AFP in overseas cases involving the death penalty since the executions in Indonesia of Australian drug smuggling ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Stringer Indonesia / Reuters
Australians Andrew Chan (R) and Myuran Sukumaran, pictured here inside a holding cell at a Denpasar court in 2006, were executed in April 2015 amid anger in Australia.

In early May a parliamentary review led by former Liberal MP Philip Ruddock called for new guidelines -- applying to both foreign nationals and Australian citizens -- to prevent such cases ever occurring again.

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