July 21, 2008 / 1:07 PM / 11 years ago

Indonesia court to try pilot over Yogyakarta crash

JAKARTA, July 21 (Reuters) - The trial will begin this week of a Garuda Indonesia pilot over a crash in 2007 that killed 21 people when the plane he was flying skidded off the runway at Yogyakarta airport, a prosecutor and lawyer said on Monday.

Captain Marwoto Komar, who was arrested in February, would be charged under Indonesian criminal and aviation law, said Abdul Hakim Ritonga, deputy attorney general for general crimes.

"It is complicated...but both aviation and criminal codes can be used," Ritonga told reporters.

Komar would be charged with negligence, causing the loss of lives, he said, but declined to elaborate.

Muhammad Assegaf, one of Komar’s lawyers, said the trial would begin on Thursday in a court in the central Javanese town.

The Boeing 737, with 140 people on board, bounced and skidded off the runway before bursting into flames in a rice field near Yogyakarta airport in March 2007.

Both pilots survived the crash.

After Komar’s arrest, about 30 pilots staged a protest at the parliament building in Jakarta, demanding police release him and calling for a separate tribunal for aviation offences.

Last year a report by the National Transport Safety Commission said the pilot ignored 15 warnings as he descended too rapidly, but declined to attribute the crash to "human error" or "pilot error".

The committee’s report said the aircraft "was flown at an excessive air speed and steep flight path angle during the approach and landing, resulting in an unstabilised approach".

Five Australians — two policemen, a diplomat, a journalist and an aid official — were among the casualties.

They were part of a group that had been accompanying former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer, who was not on board the plane, on a visit to Indonesia.

(Reporting by Telly Nathalia; Editing by Ed Davies)

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