July 21, 2014 5:01 pm
Updated: July 21, 2014 6:21 pm

Family pleads for release of former Calgary teacher jailed in Indonesia


CALGARY- A group of Canadians are working tirelessly to secure the release of a former Calgary teacher from an Indonesian prison.

Last week, authorities in Jakarta arrested Neil Bantleman, who previously worked at Webber Academy before moving to Asia to teach. Bantleman, along with a teacher’s aide named Ferdinand Tijong, are accused of drugging and molesting three kindergarten students.

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However, those who know Bantleman maintain that police have the wrong people in custody.

“Do you know what it’s like seeing your husband wear a shirt that says prisoner?” says his wife, Tracy Bantleman. “My husband is absolutely innocent…there is no evidence.”

She adds the ordeal is taking a toll on both herself and her husband.

“You know how you hug somebody—I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience—but you hug them and you just don’t feel that energy that you normally feel, they just feel hollow. It was emotional. We shared some words, and he couldn’t stop staying ‘I love you, I love you, I love you.’”

She adds she’s grateful for all the support she’s been getting from Canada, in the form of letter-writing and Facebook campaigns.

“It’s like a tsunami, and it just lifts you and it makes you feel like you can do anything.”

One of the people behind the campaigns is Bantleman’s former student, Lauren Webber.

“These accusations being levelled against them are just absolutely false,” she says. “This investigation has been horrifically botched.

“There’s is absolutely no substance and no merit to any of it. It’s a hoax, in my mind.”

She is encouraging people to write letters to Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird.

“I know [Baird] must have about two thousand plus letters sitting on his desk right now.”

Canadian authorities are working behind the scenes to secure the teacher’s release, which could include house arrest. The Canadian Embassy in Indonesia is expected to release a statement regarding the case on Tuesday.

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