Investigations Editor, The Age
Two teachers at the prestigious Jakarta International School have had their detention without charge extended for another 30 days as bizarre details emerge of the child sex allegations being made against them.
Meanwhile a group of four school cleaners also charged with raping the same child at the school have retracted their confessions, saying those statements were extracted under torture by police.
Canadian curriculum developer Neil Bantleman and Indonesian teachers’ aide Ferdinant Tjiong have been detained since July 14 while police try to bolster the case made by three kindergarten aged children against them.
But police transcripts of the children’s statements, leaked to the Wall Street Journal, contain extraordinary allegations of secret underground rooms on the school grounds and a “magic stone” which Mr Bantleman is alleged to have conjured from the air to anaesthetise one boy prior to an attack.
Both staff members have vigorously denied the allegations, and the school and their colleagues are standing behind them. The Australian embassy, one of the school’s founders and a board member, has expressed concern at their detention without charge.
Bantleman’s wife, Tracy, told Fairfax Media that her husband has not been questioned in the case since July 23.
“He has not been asked any further questions, has not been shown any evidence, nor asked for any details about evidence,” Ms Bantleman said.
Despite this, his detention in police cells was last week extended for a further 30 days until October 11. Under Indonesian law, suspects can be detained for up to 120 days as an investigation is completed.
Ms Bantleman said that, after the extension, her husband was “emotionally exhausted” and “feeling a great deal of dread”.
Police investigators have already tried once to pass the case to prosecutors, but it was returned to police on August 29 because it was incomplete.
The evidence in the case comes largely from three kindergarten-aged boys who say they were regularly taken from their classes during the school day and anally raped by large groups of up to six people at a time before being returned to their classrooms to carry on the school day.
Their statements, made in mid-June, reportedly say that some attacks took place in glass-walled offices in an administrative building that teachers refer to as the “aquarium”.
Other alleged attacks were in toilets, an open-sided staff kitchen area and two secret, windowless rooms — one of which was underground — that have since been “hidden” by the school, according to the Wall Street Journal report.
One of the boys alleges that school deputy principal, American Elsa Donohue mixed a blue-coloured drink to drug the children, then videotaped sex attacks. Ms Donohue has been questioned a number of times by police but has never been recategorised as a “suspect,” remaining a “witness” only.
One boy said in his statement that, when he refused to drink the blue drink, “the boss” (referring to Mr Bantleman), snapped his fingers and a magic stone appeared in his hand.
“The boss would get a magic stone that the boss would take from the sky,” the boy said, according to the report of the witness statement.
The stone would be inserted into the boy to anaesthetise him before he was raped.
The lawyer for the school, Harry Ponto, says medical evidence obtained by the first mother actually shows no externally-inflicted damage to her son’s anus. He believed there was no other objective evidence, but said, “The police have told me they believe it
Under Indonesian law, the defence team is not permitted to see the evidence against their clients until the court case begins. No specific allegations have ever been put to Mr Bantleman or Mr Ferdy.
The school believes the children’s stories have been heavily influenced by coaching or suggestion by their parents.
One set of parents has launched a civil lawsuit against the school for $US125 million ($138.42 million), and, in private settlement proceedings, once asked for $13.5 million ($14.95 million).
Five school cleaners, four men and a woman, are currently facing trial over separate alleged sexual attacks involving the same boys. The four men signed confessions under police questioning, admitting to the assaults, but have since retracted those admissions, saying they were made under torture. A sixth suspect, Azwar, died in custody. Police say he committed suicide.
The four cleaners have made a complaint to the Indonesian national human rights agency, Komnas HAM, about the alleged torture.
Disclosure: The author has two children attending the Jakarta International School.