Justice Minister Michael Keenan would have to personally sign off on the Australian Federal Police assisting an Indonesian police investigation into a woman who could face the death penalty.
In a case that has gripped Indonesia, 27-year-old woman Jessica Kumala Wongso, who studied in Australia, has been charged with the premeditated murder of her friend, Wayan Mirna Salihin.
The AFP confirmed it had been approached by the Indonesian National Police for assistance but would seek ministerial approval before releasing any information.
Under the AFP guidelines on international police assistance in death penalty situations, ministerial approval is required if a person has been detained, arrested, charged or convicted of an offence that carries the death penalty.
Ms Wongso and Ms Salihin reportedly studied together at Billy Blue College of Design in Sydney and Swinburne University of Technology.
Ms Wongso worked for NSW Ambulance until late last year.
"The AFP has been advised by the Indonesian National Police of the arrest of Ms Wongso for murder, which attracts the death penalty," a spokesman said. "The AFP can confirm that they have not released any information to the Indonesian National Police in relation to this request and will seek ministerial approval for any such release."
The AFP faced criticism for handing over information to Indonesian authorities about the Bali 9, which led to their arrests for heroin smuggling in 2005. The coordinators of the Bali 9, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were executed in Indonesia last year.
New guidelines for the AFP's role in cases involving the death penalty were introduced in 2009 after a federal court exonerated the AFP from acting unlawfully in the Bali nine case but argued new protocols were needed.
The guidelines require senior AFP officials to take into account a series of factors before providing assistance in potential death penalty scenarios. These include whether the information is favourable to the defendant, the nationality of the person involved, the person's age and personal circumstances, the seriousness of the suspected criminal activity and the likelihood the death penalty will be imposed.
Australia's interest in promoting and securing cooperation from overseas agencies in combating crime is also a consideration.
This information would all be provided to Mr Keenan by the AFP to assist him make a decision.
A spokeswoman for Mr Keenan said the minister was yet to receive a formal request for approval of assistance from the AFP under the death penalty guidelines.
Ms Wongso and Ms Salihin met at Olivier Cafe in Grand Indonesia Shopping Mall on January 6.
Ms Salihin took a sip of the Vietnamese iced coffee, which Ms Wongso had reportedly ordered for her. She began to suffer convulsions and foam at the mouth and died on the way to the hospital.
Jakarta Police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal said Ms Wongso had been arrested last Saturday. "She is being detained under article 340 (of the criminal code) for premeditated murder," he said.
Mr Iqbal said Ms Wongso and the victim had a connection with Australia which is why police had sought assistance from the AFP.
Ms Wongso's lawyer, Yudi Wibowo, said police had no proof of his client's involvement.
"What can the AFP provide? Criminal records, she has none. She and Mirna were just friends, nothing else. What's being reported (in the media) are all lies, not true."
He said Ms Wongso was doing fine, considering the circumstances. "Right now, we are just going along with the police investigation."
Source: smh.com.au, February 5, 2016
Australian resident facing possible death penalty in Indonesia denies poisoning murder
|Jessica Kumala Wongso|
Jessica Kumala Wongso, 27, was charged with premeditated murder earlier this week over the death of her friend Wayan Mirna Salihin, 27, on January 6.
If found guilty, the charge carries a minimum jail sentence of 20 years and a maximum penalty of life in prison or death.
Mirna died in Jakarta, Indonesia after having an iced coffee with Jessica and another friend, Hani, at the Olivier cafe in Grand Indonesia shopping mall earlier this month.
Police have accused Jessica of lacing Mirna's drink with cyanide after the newlywed reportedly sipped the iced coffee then started convulsing. She was rushed to hospital and died that day.
Jessica, who denies involvement in Mirna's death, was the one who ordered the drink that killed Mirna, according to police.
News.com.au can exclusively reveal that Jessica, her parents and 2 siblings have been permanent residents of Australia since emigrating from Indonesia about 8 years ago.
The family resides in Sydney.
A source close to the family told news.com.au that Jessica was on holidays in Indonesia with her parents and was due to return to work as a graphic designer in Sydney just weeks after her arrest.
"She's innocent," the source, who is in contact with Jessica, said. "She's just a common Australian; a 27-year-old young lady who was having a coffee then got into trouble for something she didn't do.
"She was in the wrong place at the wrong time and (now) she could die."
NSW Ambulance confirmed Jessica was employed with the service until just a few months ago.
"Jessica Wongso was employed as a temporary agency contractor in an administrative position within NSW Ambulance from July 2014 until her resignation in November 2015," a statement issued to news.com.au from NSW Ambulance read.
"As this is a matter under police investigation, NSW Ambulance is unable to comment further."
The Jakarta Post reported the Australian Federal Police was contacted by Jakarta Police "to look into the relationship between Mirna and the friends during their time studying together", reportedly at Sydney's Billy Blue College of Design and Swinburne University of Technology.
Wayan Mirna Salihin died from suspected cyanide poisoning. Her friend Jessica Kumala Wongso has been arrested in relation to Mirna's death.
The AFP confirmed "it has been approached by the Indonesian National Police (INP) in relation to this matter".
"The AFP is currently considering this request in accordance with normal police-to-police assistance processes and policies," an AFP spokesman said.
"It is not appropriate for the AFP to comment on an INP investigation.
"As this is a matter for Indonesian authorities, further questions should be directed to the Indonesian authorities."
Indonesian chief detective Krishna Murti said police have gathered about 20 witness statements, including evidence from experts, and conducted a re-enactment.
"Jessica's statement is highly inconsistent with the facts we have gathered," Mr Murti told reporters. "We will confirm whether her statement as a suspect is still consistent with her one as a witness or if she will give another statement."
Indonesia National Police Commission member Edi Saputra Hasibuan said the cafe's CCTV footage allegedly shows Jessica moving "the coffee drink ... twice".
Jessica's lawyer Yudi Wibowo said the evidence was "legally insufficient" and fails to show "her physically pouring poison into the coffee".
Yudi said Jessica was innocent.
"She is not afraid. She is tough because she has done nothing wrong in relation to the case," he said earlier this month.
Yudi has questioned the autopsy process undertaken on Mirna's body, saying he did not believe she died from cyanide poisoning, as her friend Hani had sipped coffee from the same cup.
Police confirmed they found cyanide in Mirna's stomach and in the coffee she drank before her death.
Yudi has called for a 2nd autopsy to be conducted in another hospital, after it was first completed in Kramat Jati Police Hospital on January 10.
Mirna recently married her partner, Arief Soemarko.
Yudi also denied rumours there was a love triangle between his client and Mirna's husband.
"There is nothing like that. Jessica has a boyfriend overseas," he said, according to local media reports.
Source: The Cairns Post, Feb. 5, 2016
Jessica May Walk Free Due to Weak Evidence: Lawyer
Jakarta. The suspect in a shocking case of a woman murdered with cyanide in her coffee may walk free from court as police have been providing proof largely based on assumptions, a prominent lawyer has said.
Jessica Kumala Wongso is charged with the premeditated murder of her friend Wayan Mirna Salihin, who died shortly after taking a sip of ice coffee last month at a cafe in Grand Indonesia mall.
Lab testing confirmed traces of cyanide inside the 27-year-old’s stomach, as well as in her drink, which police found was ordered by Jessica, who had arrived at the cafe almost an hour earlier.
Investigators cited 45 minutes of footage from the cafe's surveillance cameras as "key evidence," which they said showed 27-year-old Jessica behaving suspiciously prior to Mirna's arrival.
Police have brought in a number of experts to testify on the evidence, which investigators said also showed Jessica moving Mirna’s coffee drink twice.
“But do psychologists or psychiatrists have the qualifications to examine human behavior in footage of surveillance cameras?” Hotman Paris Hutapea, a prominent lawyer, said on Friday (05/02).
“They don’t have the authority to do that. Besides, it’s a long process to study the psychological state of a person.”
Mirna’s murder should not be proven solely based on assumptions, Hotman said. “There should be a confession from the perpetrator as well.”
“If the material facts are not found, there is a possibility that Jessica could be released.”
Reza Indragiri Amriel, a forensic expert, also doubted the police's conclusion.
“Why did they still have to consult with prosecutors and not directly hand over the case?” Reza said. “Are they cautious or confused?”
Investigators held a joint examination with state prosecutors twice within last week, before police named Jessica a suspect.
Source: Jakarta Globe, Feb. 5, 2016