Indonesia: Bantleman sentenced to 10 years, plans to appeal.

Thursday, Apr 09, 2015 10:23 am

A former Okotoks teacher has been sentenced to 10 years in an Indonesian jail after being found guilty of sexually abusing preschool students at the school he was working at in Jakarta.

Neil Bantleman, who lived in Okotoks for 10 years and was a substitute teacher at Good Shepherd School, has been detained since July 2014 and on trial since December in a case that has been surrounded with controversy and allegations of corruption.

Neil’s brother, Guy, said while their family and supporters were devastated by the outcome of the trial, they weren’t entirely surprised by the outcome as they felt Neil had not been given a fair trail from the beginning.

“I think as we moved through the second week, third week of the trail, in my opinion, it was just the number of rulings that were going against Neil and the defence,” Guy said. “It seemed everything from how many days the prosecutor got to try the case versus the defence, the amount of time they had to cross examine a witness, closing the trial to media after the prosecutor was done, there were just these continual hints, and you take that combined with a 97 per cent conviction rate at this level or court, it was just going in the wrong direction.”

Despite all this, supporters continued to fight for Neil who has maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal while unusual allegations were hurled at him. Guy said the fuel behind the entire trial is the $125-million settlement the families of the victims are seeking from the school.

“There really is no case here … there was no evidence at all that would justify what happened,” Guy said. “Bottom line, it’s money, it’s greed and corruption and somebody looking to really take a run at the school and make them suffer with a huge financial payout.”

Neil released a statement calling the conviction a ‘malicious attack’ on both himself and another teaching aid, Ferdi Tjiong who was also convicted.

“We were the targets of a judge who seemed to be set on seeking vengeance on an entire school community, the media, and international diplomatic representatives,” the statement read. “This decision was not based on legal facts but was the culmination of a highly questionable investigation, prosecution and court proceedings. It is our hope that these proceedings will shed light on the many issues that have arisen and instigate change in police and legal processes within Indonesia.”

Guy said throughout the case, they had been petitioning the Canadian government to take action and help ensure Neil received a fair trial, something Guy said didn’t happen.

“I think the government should have come out and made a statement just supporting Neil saying listen, you’ve got a Canadian citizen, we’ve looked at the file, it’s very obvious that these are trumped up charges and we’d like to see the evidence you’ve got that leads to the detention of this individual,” he said. “And that was never done. Even now, show us the smoking gun, tie this up, and they can’t do it.”

Guy said they are planning to appeal the case right away, and are hoping the government will be more involved as they move forward.

“I’d like the government to stand up, If I actuality talked to a member of the Liberal Party today that is a personal friend and they said they would do something from that perspective for us and we’d like to get a question asked in the House of Commons and get their support that way,” he said.

Macleod MP John Barlow, who attended a candlelight vigil for Neil in Okotoks in July, said he was disappointed in the verdict but felt the Canadian government has been playing an active role in advocating for Neil.

“Right now our Canadian government, our officials there have been following this case extremely closely, we’re aware of the verdict. We’ll continue to provide assistance to Mr. Bantleman,” Barlow said. “Our role right now is to advocate on behalf of Mr. Bantleman, and to make sure, from my understanding they’re going to proceed with an appeal, so we’ll continue to offer assistance to Mr. Bantleman and his family there.”

Barlow said the government is restricted in how they are able to interfere with another country’s judicial system.

“We can’t get involved officially, we’ll be there to offer support and offer help with the Bantleman family, questions that they have,” Barlow said. “But again, I spoke with the Canadian consul office this morning and there are privacy issues there that we can’t divulge any of that information on any specifics. We can’t get actively involved with the trial or the appeal, we just have to be there for support.”

In a statement from prison, Neil said they will continue to fight for his release.

“We are hopeful that the next level of the judicial system will scrutinize this case carefully and seek to rectify the numerous issues and errors committed, setting Indonesia back on the path to true justice and the elimination of corruption and evil,” Neil stated. “For the sake of all, justice must be served. Our fight is not over yet.”

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