Indonesia frees Canadian teacher accused of sex abuse

Neil Bantleman (R) and Ferdinand Tjiong in Jakarta (2 Dec 2014)Image copyright

Image caption

Tjiong (L) and Bantleman have always denied the charges against them

A British-Canadian jailed for sexually abusing children at an exclusive school in Jakarta is back home in Canada.

Neil Bantleman spent five years in an Indonesian jail and was convicted of child sex abuse in 2015 alongside his colleague Indonesian Ferdinant Tjiong.

A higher court overturned his conviction, but Indonesia’s Supreme Court re-instated it in 2016.

Their supporters argue the case against them is riddled with legal errors and that they were denied a fair trial.

Mr Bantleman and Mr Tjiong have always maintained their innocence.

Mr Tjiong’s current legal status is unknown.

Image copyright

Image caption

Mr Bantleman’s wife, Tracy (R), celebrated outside court when her husband’s conviction was overturned in 2015. A year later, Indonesia’s Supreme Court re-convicted him

Bantleman told the media on Friday that he was granted clemency and has been home with family in Ontario since the end of June, and wishes to maintain his privacy.

“Five years ago, I was wrongfully accused and convicted of crimes I did not commit and furthermore never occurred,” Bantleman said in the statement. “I applied for clemency, which I am pleased was granted by Indonesia last month, upholding essential justice and human rights.”

What was he accused of?

Mr Bantleman and Mr Tjiong were arrested in 2014 after a mother of a six-year-old boy claimed her son had been molested by staff members at the Jakarta Intercultural School, an elite private school attended by the children of diplomats and wealthy businessmen.

They were eventually charged with raping three young boys.

The BBC’s Alice Budisatrijo, who was at the pair’s initial trial, says most of the evidence provided by the defence was rejected by the court, including an expert opinion that the children had been subjected to leading questioning that had altered their memories of events.

The court also rejected a medical assessment from a hospital in Singapore which said there was no sign one of the boys had been sodomised, in favour of a conflicting Indonesian police hospital report.

An investigation by the CBC’s Fifth Estate says the boys told police they were raped using a “blue potion” and a “magic stone”, and that the assaults occurred in “secret rooms” as well as out in the open.

The mother of the initial complainant filed a $125m lawsuit against the school, which was dismissed by an Indonesian court. The school has stood behind the accused teachers.

The Canadian government has been pressuring the Indonesian government for his release. The ministry of Global Affairs was not immediately available for comment.

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