Jailed Cana­dian teacher marks two years of or­deal

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - DIANA ME­HTA

TORONTO — A Cana­dian teacher con­victed in In­done­sia on child abuse charges marked the sec­ond an­niver­sary of his de­ten­tion on Thurs­day as his fam­ily called for an im­par­tial re­view of his case.

Neil Bantle­man, of Burling­ton, has main­tained his in­no­cence ever since he was ac­cused of abus­ing three chil­dren at an in­ter­na­tional school in the In­done­sian cap­i­tal of Jakarta.

In Fe­bru­ary this year, In­done­sia’s Supreme Court over­turned a lower court’s ac­quit­tal of Bantle­man’s charges and he was put back be­hind bars with an 11-year sen­tence af­ter be­ing out of prison while his case was heard.

The 47-year-old has called his case a com­plete mis­car­riage of jus­tice and his lawyers are now pre­par­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion for a ju­di­cial re­view of the mat­ter.

“We are fo­cused on get­ting Neil out and that will hap­pen, we know that for a fact, it’s just how long that will take,” Bantle­man’s brother, Guy Bantle­man said in an in­ter­view.

“We’re ob­vi­ously frus­trated that we’ve had to mark a two-year an­niver­sary, but we are pleased that Neil is in good health and he is rel­a­tively safe and that we seem to be mak­ing some progress.”

Reg­u­lar calls with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and Global Af­fairs Canada for up­dates on Ot­tawa’s ef­forts, and the work be­ing done for his ju­di­cial re­view are all seen as pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ments, Guy Bantle­man said.

“They’re all small steps but at least they’re mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion,” he said, not­ing that work­ing with the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment af­ter they were elected last fall ap­pears to have made a dif­fer­ence.

“Bet­ter ac­cess, more proac­tive na­ture, more feed­back, just tak­ing steps to have this re­solved.”

A panel ap­pointed by In­done­sia’s Supreme Court will look at Bantle­man’s ar­gu­ments for a ju­di­cial re­view, his brother said. If that av­enue even­tu­ally fails, Bantle­man’s fam­ily will shift its fo­cus to pe­ti­tion­ing for a pres­i­den­tial par­don and fur­ther diplo­matic in­ter­ven­tion.

“It’s a sit­u­a­tion of un­sub­stan­ti­ated ac­cu­sa­tions with no phys­i­cal or med­i­cal ev­i­dence, and a trial that lacked trans­parency that has re­ally led to this sit­u­a­tion. In the Cana­dian and the U.S. ju­di­cial sys­tem we wouldn’t even be talk­ing about this,” his brother said. “We will con­tinue to push for a fair and im­par­tial ju­di­cial re­view process.”

The case has dragged through the In­done­sian jus­tice sys­tem since Bantle­man was ar­rested in July 2014.

He was first con­victed and handed a 10-year prison sen­tence last April and then freed in Au­gust when the con­vic­tion was over­turned.

But Bantle­man re­turned to prison ear­lier this year when the In­done­sian Supreme Court quashed his ac­quit­tal and added a year to his sen­tence.

At the time, For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Stéphane Dion is­sued a state­ment say­ing the gov­ern­ment was “deeply dis­mayed and shocked” that the ac­quit­tal rul­ing was over­turned.

Bantle­man’s fam­ily has main­tained that he was the vic­tim of a cor­rupt In­done­sian jus­tice sys­tem.

A peace­ful demon­stra­tion was held out­side the In­done­sian Con­sulate in Toronto and a vigil was planned in Cal­gary for Thurs­day evening to draw at­ten­tion to Neil Bantle­man’s or­deal.

Neil Bantle­man: re­view sought

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