Sat, Jul 13, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Indonesia frees Canadian jailed over child sex abuse


Indonesia has freed a Canadian teacher who has maintained that he was wrongfully convicted in 2015 of sexually abusing children at a prestigious international school in Jakarta.

Neil Bantleman, teaching assistant Ferdinant Tjiong and five other employees at the school were convicted after allegations of abuse of kindergarten-aged children that lawyers and teaching staff at the school said were motivated by money.

The case, which became notorious for its bizarre and flimsy evidence, highlighted chronic problems in Indonesia’s justice system.

Another suspect killed himself in custody in 2015 by drinking bathroom cleaner, police said.

An Indonesia Ministry of Law and Human Rights official, who did not want to be named because of the case’s sensitivity, and one of Bantleman’s lawyers, Patra M. Zen, yesterday said that Bantleman had applied for clemency, which was granted by Indonesian President Joko Widodo last month.

Bantleman was released on June 21, the official said.

Tjiong, sentenced to 10 years in prison, has not applied for clemency and remains in prison.

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

Jakarta International School, which was subsequently renamed, was attended by the children of foreign diplomats, expatriates and Indonesia’s elite. It had about 2,400 students aged three to 18 from about 60 countries.

The mother of one of the three allegedly abused children sued the school in 2015 for alleged negligence and was seeking US$125 million in compensation.

The same district court that convicted Bantleman and Tjiong rejected the woman’s lawsuit on the basis that it was not proven the alleged abuse had taken place.

The original convictions were overturned, but then reinstated in 2016 by the Indonesian Supreme Court, which increased Bantleman’s 10-year sentence.

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