Neil Bantleman is out of Indonesian prison. When can he come home?
WATCH ABOVE: A Canadian teacher who was sentenced to ten years behind bars in Indonesia for allegedly sexually abusing young children is now a free man. Neil Bantleman’s conviction has been overturned. Few details about the case are known because it was subject to a rare media ban. Bantleman has always maintained his innocence and his family has stood behind him, accusing authorities of mishandling the case. Mike Armstrong reports.
VANCOUVER — Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman is out of prison and spending time with his wife after an Indonesian High Court overturned an earlier child sex abuse conviction.
Bantleman, his family and his employer — a prestigious international school in capital city Jakarta attended by the children of diplomats and expatriates — have insisted he was innocent since his July 14, 2014 arrest and the case against him was condemned as lacking evidence.
The 45-year-old’s brother, Guy Bantleman, said the release doesn’t mean he’s bound for Canada just yet.
“He’s not a completely free man,” Guy told Global News. “But we have to work through the process to see if the prosecutor can actually appeal up to the Supreme Court. But this is a major step in the right direction.”
The conviction of a Bantleman’s co-accused, teaching assistant Ferdinant Tjiong, was also overturned.
The prosecution could appeal the High Court’s overturn of the Jakarta District Court ruling in April, that found Bantleman guilty of sexually abusing three young children.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for violating the country’s Child Protection Law. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 100 million rupiah (CDN $7,700 ) or face an additional six months in prison.
WATCH: Former Calgary teacher Neil Bantleman is out of prison, and as Jill Croteau reports, the reality of it all is still sinking in.
Now on the outside, Bantleman will spend a few private days with his wife, Tracy, for the first time in 13 months.
After that, his brother said, they will get to work on seeing how soon the former Calgary teacher can come home.
According to The Associated Press, a spokesman for the Jakarta prosecutor’s office will examine Friday’s ruling and will indicate within two weeks whether they intend to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
WATCH: Neil Webber, the president of Webber Academy where Neil Bantleman taught for a decade, joins Global Calgary with reaction to Bantleman’s overturned conviction.
But it could be a number of months before Bantleman and his family know whether an appeal will go ahead.
“That’s going to dictate our actions over the next few weeks,” Guy said.
Bantleman can’t quite just pick up and hop on a plane out of the country. He had to surrender his passport when he was arrested last year, his brother confirmed.
But B.C. lawyer Gary Botting — a criminal defence lawyer with an expertise in extradition — said because Bantleman’s conviction has been overturned, he should be able to seek a replacement or temporary passport from the Canadian embassy in Jakarta if he wants to leave.
“It’s on a case-by-case basis, but as long as he can prove that he’s acquitted and he goes to a Canadian embassy or consulate, then he should be able to get those documents without any difficulty because he’s deemed to be innocent.”
Under Section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all Canadians have the right enter — or in this case return to — Canada, he noted.
Botting said unless the Indonesian government is trying to make an example of someone, they’re usually happy to see them go.
The Dept. of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Friday the government welcomed Friday’s decision and “has called on Indonesia to handle Mr. Bantleman’s case in a fair and transparent manner.” But the department wouldn’t comment further on the case, citing “the privacy of those involved.
Foreign Affairs said Canadian officials have and will continue to provide consular assistance to Bantleman and his family.
His brother, in a separate interview with Calgary’s 660 News, said he believes the prosecutor’s comments about appealing decision were likely “rhetoric.”
“I think that once they go back and look at the circumstances surrounding this case, I think they’ll be hard pressed to move it forward,” Guy said.
What if he faced an appeal?
If Bantleman’s conviction had not been overturned or should the prosecutor’s office proceed with and win an appeal and he goes back to prison, he wouldn’t be eligible to apply to serve that sentence in a Canadian institution.
The Canadian government intervene on a “case-by-case basis” and may make an “administrative agreement” with the country where a Canadian citizen has been imprisoned. But such an agreement would have to be approved by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Public Safety and be in accordance with Canada’s International Transfer of Offenders act.
But Botting explained Canada also has no extradition treaty with Indonesia. So If Bantleman were to come back to Canada but still face an appeal, it would likely be complicated for Indonesia to even try to have him brought back before a court.
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