The wife of Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman, who is accused of sexually abusing children at a private school in Indonesia, called his rearrest “inhumane” and “absurd” during an emotional press conference Friday.
Tracy Bantleman spoke to the media after Neil Bantleman of Burlington, Ont., and his co-accused Ferdinand Tjiong had surrendered to police in Jakarta.
“What has happened is inhumane, ridiculous and absurd. Neil and Ferdy [Tijong] are honourable men,” she said, holding back tears.
Bantleman and Tjiong, an Indonesian teaching assistant, were convicted in 2014 on charges of abusing three young boys at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS). The two have vehemently maintained their innocence during a highly publicized police investigation and trial that received international condemnation.
They were originally sentenced to 10 years in prison, but were acquitted by the Jakarta High Court in August 2015, after nearly a year behind bars, and released. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered they be rearrested and added an additional year to their sentences.
Ferry de Kerckhove, a former Canadian ambassador to Indonesia, said there is still “widespread corruption” in the country and criticized the lack of separation between the court system and the administration of President Joko Widodo.
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“They still have a long way to go,” de Kerckhove told Global News. “At the end of the day it’s still pretty close and there is a lot of influence there.”
The Jakarta Intercultural School whose students and include the children of Western diplomats, including de Kerchove when he was ambassador, and wealthy Indonesians, insists that no children were sexually assaulted.
De Kerckhove said a reason for the re-arrest could be the “the moral hardline” taken by the Indonesian government.
“Joko Widodo has really taken on a more rigid approach to things that are behavioural,” he said. “There’s a kind of moral hardline that is coming to Indonesia that may explain that issue and part of the agenda of … a more rigid approach to moral issues.”
Guy Bantleman, Neil’s brother, has acted as a spokesperson for the family and said they will seek a Judicial Review as a final appeal in the case.
“The lack of a truly transparent legal process, that is balanced and objective is extremely disappointing, and we will now utilize the diplomatic channels to achieve justice,” he said in a statement. “While a Judicial Review is an available appeal in this case, and one we will pursue, based on previous experiences with the Indonesian judicial system, we would be cautiously optimistic for a positive outcome.”
A lawyer for the two men confirmed Friday the pair and their legal team will request a judicial review after studying the verdict and gathering new evidence.
“We believe the verdict was reached without a careful and thorough examination,” Patra M. Zein told the Associated Press. “We are awaiting a copy of the verdict to study it.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion has sharply criticized the handling of the case.
Dion warned in a statement Thursday the outcome of the high-profile case has serious implications for Indonesia’s reputation as a safe place for Canadians to work, travel and invest.
“This decision is unjust, given the many grave irregularities throughout the various proceedings in this case and the fact that all evidence presented by the defence has systematically been rejected,” Dion said.
United States ambassador to Indonesia Robert O. Blake Jr. was also sharply critical
“It is not clear what evidence the Supreme Court used to overturn the High Court’s decision,” he said in a statement. “The outcome of the legal process will impact international views about the rule of law in Indonesia.”
*With files from Phil Heidenreich and the Associated Press
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