In the first case of its kind, an Indonesian captain-pilot has been sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of negligence in the crash landing of a Garuda Indonesia Jakarta-Yogyakarta flight in March 2007 that caused the death of 21 people.
Captain Marwoto Komar stood trial in the Slemen District Court where a panel of judges determined he had repeatedly ignored automated alarm systems while landing his Boeing 737 at a high rate of speed before running off the end of the runway where the plane burst into flames.
Prosecutors had sought a four year sentence in the case.
The decision to try the pilot in the criminal court has been widely criticized in national aviation circles who questioned both the competence and the authority of a district criminal court to sit in judgment during a highly technical flight review.
The pilot's lawyers have indicated they will immediately file an appeal of the 2 year sentence. Jakarta Globe reports that Marwoto's lawyer, Assegaf, cited the panel of judges' failure to follow the Convention on International Civil Aviation that stipulates accident investigation reports can not be used to ascribe blame, but only to determine cause. Indonesia is a party to that Convention.
An accident report prepared by the National Transportation Safety Committee cited the pilot for failing to heed 14 alerts and warnings, in addition to two verbal warnings from his co-pilot calling for the landing to be aborted.
Among the dead in the mishap were a number of Australians. The 2 year sentence was deemed "very light" by former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
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