July 31, 2014 4:24 am

Vigils to be held for Canadian teacher detained in Indonesia

Neil Bantleman.

(Screengrab)

Candlelight vigils will be held in several cities tonight for a Canadian teacher who has been detained in Indonesia for more than two weeks.

Neil Bantleman, 45, was arrested in Jakarta during a police investigation into the alleged sexual assault of three kindergarten students.

Bantleman, who worked at the prestigious Jakarta International School, was detained along with teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong, who is Indonesian.

Bantleman’s brother says the vigils are a show of solidarity for the two men, who have denied the allegations.

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“These are two men who have co-operated, surrendered their passports,” Guy Bantleman said from his home in Burlington, Ont. “There has been nothing to justify their detainment.”

Indonesian media reports said the police investigation began with the arrest of six outsourced cleaners accused of allegedly raping a young boy in a school bathroom in March. The Jakarta Post reported that the parents of two other students filed police reports claiming their sons were sexually assaulted by teachers.

Neil Bantleman and Tjiong were brought into a Jakarta police station for questioning on July 14 and then detained in the early hours the next morning.

Guy Bantleman said since his brother’s arrest, his supporters in Indonesia have held a nightly vigil outside the school gates.

A vigil will be held in Burlington at 9 p.m. Thursday to coincide with a morning vigil in Jakarta, he said. There are also two vigils planned in Alberta at 10 p.m. – one outside the Webber Academy in Calgary, where Neil Bantleman used to teach, and another in Okotoks, where he lived with his wife.

Tracy Bantleman has taught with her husband at Jakarta International School for four years, and is campaigning there for his release.

“We’re frustrated, there’s no question,” said Guy Bantleman of his brother’s detainment.

This week is “critical,” he said, adding that according to Indonesian law, suspects can be held for 60 days without charges, however at the 20-day mark, police are expected to review the detainment.

“The 20-day marker was imperative because it kind of puts the police in a place where they have to make a decision one way or the other,” Bantleman said. “We really feel this is the first opportunity to press for his release.”

Bantleman said that while he’s calling for his brother’s release, he expects the investigation to continue.

“This is not about someone walking away, it’s about continuing the investigation, co-operation and getting to the truth,” he said.

He added that two men underwent polygraph tests last week and the Jakarta police have yet to release the results.

The Jakarta Post reported that police claim to have proof the two teachers drugged kindergarten pupils before sexually assaulting them. Both Neil Bantleman and Tjiong could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The Jakarta International School was founded by the Australian, British and American embassies in Indonesia. When Bantleman was arrested, embassy officials released a joint statement that said they were “deeply concerned” about the teachers’ detention.

“We believe JIS and its teachers have closely co-operated with police authorities, and we are surprised at these developments given the presumption of innocence in Indonesian law,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, Bantleman is receiving Canadian consular services.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said in an email that details on the case are not being released for privacy reasons.

Guy Bantleman said his family is remaining “optimistic” that his brother may be released soon.

“You have to remember these are just allegations,” he said. “For teachers this is the worst allegation that you can ever have put forward because it’s something you have to live with for the rest of your life.”

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