Indonesia overturns sex abuse convictions
A Canadian teacher and an Indonesian teaching assistant sentenced to 10 years in an Indonesian prison for child sexual offenses were released Friday after a court overturned their convictions.
Neil Bantleman, 45, and Ferdinant Tjiong were greeted by tearful family and cheers from friends and dozens of teachers from their former school as they walked out of Cipinang prison in eastern Jakarta.
Bantleman and Tjiong were convicted in April by the South Jakarta District Court of violating Indonesia’s child protection law. They maintained their innocence and appealed to the Jakarta High Court. The two men were supported by fellow teachers and the principal at the Jakarta International School, now called the Jakarta Intercultural School.
“I want to say thank you to you all for believing in us,” said Bantleman, who repeatedly hugged and kissed his wife. “We’re happy that the truth has finally come out.”
The release of the men came after the Jakarta High Court overturned their convictions of sexually abusing students who attended the school’s kindergarten and who are now 6 and 7 years old. The school is attended by children of foreign diplomats, expatriates and Indonesia’s elite. It has 2,400 students aged 3 to 18 from about 60 countries.
Hotman Paris Hutapea, an Indonesian lawyer representing Bantleman and Tjiong, had said the sexual abuse claims were motivated by money. The principal and a number of other teachers have alleged the same. The mother of one of the children had sued the school for alleged negligence and was seeking US$125 million in compensation.
“The truth is finally revealed and justice has been done,” Hutapea said Friday.
A spokesman for the Jakarta prosecutor’s office said the High Court’s decision would be appealed to the Supreme Court.
“We are now studying the High Court’s verdict and will file the appeal within two weeks,” said Waluyo who like many Indonesians uses one name.
Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman, right, and Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinant Tjiong, left, raise their hands as they stand with lawyer Hotman Paris Hutapea, center, after they were released from Cipinang prison in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Aug. 14.