Trial of Garuda Pilot to Proceed
YOGYAKARTA ~ A court ruled on Monday that it will proceed with the trial of a pilot charged with deliberately crashing a passenger jet in 2007, killing 21 people including five Australians.
After considering preliminary arguments from prosecutors as well as lawyers for the Indonesian pilot, who has pleaded not guilty, judge Sri Andini said the case should go ahead.
“We rejected a plea of not guilty filed by the defendant’s lawyer and decided to continue the hearing,” the judge told Sleman District Court in Central Java province.
She said witnesses would be called when the trial resumed on September 15.
When Marwoto Komar, a former captain from flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, entered his plea last month, he said that with 22 years’ experience as a pilot he would not have deliberately crashed the plane.
A government probe found Komar ignored 15 automated cockpit warnings not to land as he brought the plane in at roughly twice the safe speed, causing the jet to bounce and burst into flames in nearby ricefields.
“I don’t have any choice but to accept the decision,” Komar told reporters following Andini’s ruling.
His lawyer, Muhammad Assegaf, said he was surprised by the judge’s decision and that the court should consider international civil aviation codes, which rule out criminal liability for pilots in crashes.
But Andini noted in her ruling that “everybody is equal before the law, with no exception for a pilot.”
The four Australian government officials and a journalist killed were following a visit by then Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer, who was on another plane.
Prosecutors charged Komar with three counts of negligence and one count of “deliberately” destroying or damaging an aircraft causing death, charges that carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Komar pilot’s license has been suspended, and he was sacked by Garuda in February.