Neil Bantleman held in Indonesian cell with 300 other prisoners, family says
A Canadian school teacher acquitted of sexually abusing children at a private school in Indonesia but who was re-arrested last week following a decision by the country’s Supreme Court, is now in a jail cell with 300 prisoners, according to his family.
Neil Bantleman and his teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong were convicted in 2014 on charges of abusing three young boys at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) and were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Both have maintained their innocence. They appealed to the country’s High Court and were acquitted last August.
But that acquittal was overturned last Wednesday and Bantleman turned himself in to Indonesian officials where he was taken into custody.
“Neil is currently being held in an adjacent compound to Cipinang prison, where he was detained during his trial, called Lembaga Pemasyarakatan Cipinangm,” said Guy Bantleman, Neil’s brother, in a statement. “He is in a cell with 300 other inmates and we hope he will be transferred to a smaller cell in the prison as soon as possible.”
Guy Bantleman, who has acted as spokesperson for the family, said once they have received an official copy of the Supreme Court’s verdict the lawyers representing the two can file a judicial review through the district court.
Tracy Bantleman, Neil’s wife, called the re-arrest “heartbreaking” and a “travesty.”
“To be separated from my husband, an innocent man, not once but twice, is truly heartbreaking,” she said in a statement Sunday.
“We are deeply saddened by the baseless decision of the Supreme Court. The decision made by the panel of judges at the Supreme Court was rushed, reckless, and unjust,” she said.
“There is no evidence in this case against them and from the beginning it has been clear that the accusations are unfounded and absurd. The re-arrest of Neil and Ferdi [Tjiong] is a profound travesty of justice.”
WATCH: Decision to overturn Bantleman acquittal stuns colleagues
The highly publicized police investigation, trial and re-arrest have received international condemnation.
Last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion warned 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.
Tracy said she was “extremely appreciative” with the federal government’s response and said its efforts helped ensure she and her husband were able to return to Jakarta safely.
“The Canadian Embassy in Jakarta ensured our safety in processing Neil back to Jakarta and continues to work tirelessly on our case at the highest levels,” she said. “Firm and consistent diplomatic involvement is essential to finding a just resolution to this case and to Neil’s safe return to Canada.”
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