INDONESIA, Where International Teachers are imprisoned on insufficient evidence and convicted terrorists are set free for ‘good behavior’
The high profile case of Jakarta International School teacher, Neil Bantleman, is a prime example of Indonesia’s current corrupt “legal” system and apparent growing disdain for Westerners. Without entering into a discussion of guilt or innocence in regards to the claim of child abuse, the trial of Neil Bantleman, if you can stretch your imagination to call it that, points to a judge and jury with an unobscured agenda: “Find him guilty!” even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. See: Thirty-Things You Should Know About the JIS Case
Neil Bantleman was ultimately sentenced to 10 years in prison on insufficient evidence for an alleged crime against the child of a parent now pursuing a $125-million lawsuit against Jakarta International School. This, after Indonesia released convicted terrorist Muhammad Cholili from prison on ‘good behavior.’ Even Cholili was surprised by his release. He had been convicted for helping to assemble more than 20 backpack and motorcycle bombs, some of which were used in the October, 2005 attacks in Bali, killing 20 people and leaving more than 120 others injured at the well-populated tourist areas of Kuta & Jimbaran Beach. He served less than half of his 18-year sentence.
We are speechless. A foreign teacher is imprisoned for 10 years on inconclusive evidence and a known terrorist convicted of killing and maiming tourists is set free because he was behaving himself in prison? Based on this model, Bantleman should have already been freed. The question is, were deals cut in both cases? Is each case an example of a corrupt system where money in the right pocket gets the desired results? Is Indonesia sending a message that Westerners are not welcome? We all like to think it can’t happen to us…at least until it does. Comments?
See original article at International Schools Review
By Cynthia Nagrath
Correction: In the version of this piece posted to TIE’s website last week, Neil Bantleman was erroneously described as a “guidance counselor” at Jakarta Intercultural School. Mr. Bantleman is in fact an administrator, with the official title of Learning Leader. His main role in this capacity is coordinating the school’s service learning program.
On Monday April 6, 2015, just days after his conviction, Neil Bantleman 45, a Canadian administrator at the Jakarta Intercultural School (formerly known as the Jakarta International School), issued a statement thanking his family, friends and supporters.
The embattled educator, whose role as Learning Leader has been to coordinate the school’s service learning program, is facing a 10-year sentence in an Indonesian prison alongside Ferdinand Tjiong, an Indonesian teaching assistant at the school, for allegedly sexually assaulting students in a case that many observers have criticized for poor handling, false accusations, and a lack of evidence. The two men have been held in police custody since July and throughout their entire four-month trial, which concluded with guilty verdicts for the pair.
Following the verdict on April 2nd, Robert O. Blake, the United States ambassador to Indonesia, said in a statement, “Serious questions have arisen in this case regarding the investigative process and lack of credible evidence against the teachers.”
After hearing the verdict, Mr. Bantleman’s wife, Tracy Bantleman 43, also a teacher at JIS, said in a statement, “My husband is innocent; he always has been and always will be. I am deeply disheartened and appalled by today’s verdict. The decision of the judges to imprison two innocent men, with no credible evidence at all is truly cruel, inhumane and heartless…”
Members of the international school community have come out in support of Mr. Bantleman through online petitions, letter-writing campaigns, and the creation of a Facebook page called “Free Neil Bantleman & Ferdi Tjiong,” which has nearly 6,000 members.
Both men will be appealing their convictions. In his statement Mr. Bantleman said: “We must continue to fight for justice and truth, failing to do so is a threat to freedom and justice everywhere.” He called the guilty verdict “appalling,” and “a malicious attack” on himself and teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong. He also said that the “panel of judges dismissed every expert and factual witness presented by the defense” and although, “World-renowned experts presented the judges with current research, scientifically based medical evidence and examples of best practices…they chose to ignore it all and be willfully blind to the truth.”
You can read Neil Bantleman’s full statement below.
Statement by Neil Bantleman April 6, 2015
I would like to start by thanking everyone who has stood by Tracy and me and our families over the last nine months and who continue to do so. We are truly humbled by the support and love that we have received and take great comfort in knowing we have so many wonderful people in our lives. This has solidified our faith in the goodness of humankind. I feel fortunate to have the unconditional love of my beautiful wife, family and friends and could ask for or want nothing more. The individuals, groups, friends and strangers alike working on our behalf to share our story, to fight for us and for justice have been truly heart warming and reassuring. I thank you all. We must continue to be strong and to fight for justice and truth; failing to do so is a threat to freedom and justice everywhere.
The decision rendered on Thursday April 2nd by the panel of judges was an appalling demonstration of the current state of the judicial capacity of the South Jakarta District Court. We are saddened by the decision, yet not entirely surprised. We have become painfully aware of the challenges for those seeking justice and the lack of consideration for actual evidence or expert testimony. World-renowned experts presented the judges with current research, scientifically based medical evidence and examples of best practices. Yet they chose to ignore it all and be willfully blind to the truth.
The panel of judges dismissed every expert and factual witness presented by the defense, as well as the submission of exculpatory evidence and relevant information that casts serious doubts on the allegations of abuse. What the judges chose to admit was unscrutinized and unsubstantiated information from a police dossier that contained numerous flaws in theory, practice and legality. The inclusion of testimony from an entirely different case, which was never entered into court proceedings, medical conclusions that violated doctors’ oaths, and opinions based on hearsay from unqualified clinical psychologists acting outside their areas of expertise are just some examples of the multiple issues that exist. This decision was merely based on a repetition of information copied from a police dossier. No valid legal consideration was used to draw their conclusions. When the entirety of a defense is ignored, twisted or omitted, this must raise serious questions as to how anyone could ever put forth a defense?
The judges held the trial behind closed doors, allegedly due to child protection issues, but then completely violated this article of law by releasing the names of all of the alleged victims, and the acts allegedly committed against them, during the open court reading of the verdict. This demonstrates a complete lack of understanding or commitment to the fundamentals of child protection. Standard practices, such as the embassies’ attempts to gain access to the court, the defense discussing the case in the media and writing letters to the district court, and the submission of thousands of letters of support, were grossly misinterpreted as tactics to force a certain decision and to intimidate the judges. The same actions were then listed as aggravating factors in the sentencing.
This conviction is a malicious attack on Ferdi and on me. 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. 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.
For those charged with the responsibility for change, the time to act is now. Don’t let the mistakes of the past affect the potential for the future. 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. For the sake of all, justice must be served. Our fight is not over yet. I have lived in Indonesia for 5 years and never once has my admiration and respect diminished for the community of Indonesians I have met; it has only grown stronger each and every year. Though I have been tested and tried, and treated inhumanely like this, I still have faith in Indonesia. The people of Indonesia are better than the label of a corrupted country. Together, Indonesians will break free from the stigma – letting truth and justice be upheld in the struggle to live a righteous life.
Posted on 16 April 2015 | Revised version posted on 23 April 2015
Was there someone else behind the mother of the 6-year-old child who instigated the case? Who in fact had the idea to crank up the demand from US$12 million in damages to $125 million? Was the $125 million figure plucked out of the blue, or does it just happen to correspond to the value of the prime property that the JIS premises are currently located on? Is it really about child sex abuse, or is it about grown-up money and property to try to leverage the possible closure of the school?
Is it possible that a mother could coach a child to testify in a certain way? However, it would be a bit naïve to think she could tell the police how to conduct the case and instruct them to ignore every single internationally accepted investigative protocol. It’s even more ludicrous to think that she could command the court to abrogate legal procedure without some very powerful movers and shakers behind the whole thing.
None of the so-called evidence presented in court met any internationally accepted standards. It reminds me of the good old days of the authoritarian New Order when “proof” could be produced, and “truth” fabricated at the behest of those in power, naturally. Plus ça change, it seems huh?
Guilty verdicts were handed down to five cleaners and two teachers for the sexual abuse of two JIS pupils.
In December last year, four of the cleaners (Zainal Abidin, Syahrial, Agun Iskandar and Virgiawan Amin) were sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment, while Afrischa Setyani, the only woman, got seven years. Azwar, the sixth suspect, allegedly committed suicide during investigations. I read there were bruises on his dead body. Hmm, I wonder how they got there? Torture? The police? Naaah, impossible!
Then after a 12-month so-called “legal” process, on April 2, the two teachers, Neil Bantleman, 45, and Ferdinant Tjiong, 42, were each sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment and a Rp 100 million ($7,700) fine to conclude a much-criticized trial.
The families of those sentenced are devastated by the verdict. When Bantleman’s wife Tracy told me “It’s like being hit by a train and you haven’t even crossed the tracks,” I am sure she was speaking on behalf of the other families as well, some of which also have kids.
Media coverage by both national and international media has been massive — just Google “JIS sex abuse” and you’ll get a deluge of stuff. Oh, there’s also an Indonesian Facebook page called “Reject the manipulation of the JIS case” and a petition to free Bantleman and Ferdinant.
The entire absurd farce would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic and the ramifications so broad, deep and serious, raising many questions and issues.
It raises questions about the Indonesian legal system and the rule of law, which is the basis of human rights and democracy. What guarantee do we have, as citizens, that we will be protected under the law? Anyone can just suddenly be thrown into the slammer, willy-nilly, simply based on (false) allegations and a police report.
Timothy Carr, head of JIS, told me in a personal interview that international schools have been comparing notes and they say they have never seen anything like this. Naturally, they are in support of JIS.
However, national school teachers have also written to JIS, saying that it affects everyone in the teaching profession.
Baseless allegations leveled at teachers and supported by a judicial system without credible evidence, put every educator on the planet, especially male teachers, at risk.
As Carr pointed out, JIS, which was founded in 1951 by a United Nations family, exists to fill a need for an international standard of education. This need obviously still exists for the families of expatriates, including business corporations who invest in Indonesia.
On April 19-21, Indonesia hosted the World Economic Forum (WEF). Obviously Indonesia wanted to use the occasion to woo (or lure?) foreign direct investment (FDI). Business requires legal certainty. The JIS case doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in investors.
The other big event running almost concurrently is the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference. Sure, the aim is to revive the Bandung spirit of Asian and African nations, but its relevance today is to reaffirm the nation’s support for the fundamental principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Surely as the host nation, Indonesia should be a showcase of upholding human rights, which the JIS trial is clearly not.
Bantleman and Ferdinant, and the cleaners are all going to appeal their verdicts, and Sisca, wife of Ferdinant, is planning to file a report with the National Police against five doctors and the parents of the boys who testified against her husband in the sex abuse trial.
There is still a chance to rectify the apparent gross miscarriage of justice in the JIS case. It’s imperative that we do so, not just for the sake of the convicted people, but for all our sakes.
The writer is the author of Julia’s Jihad.
Read story at Jakarta Post
ICCC Statement on JIS Verdict
Jakarta, lndonesia – (April 9, 2015) The lndonesia Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC), which is dedicated to supporting positive business growth for social and economic development in lndonesia through intemational trade and investment, is concemed that the reported lack of due process, which culminated in the guilty verdicts of Jakarta lntercultural School (JlS) teachers Ferdinand Tjiong and Neil Bantleman, will have a negative impact on the country.
Said Edwin Pieroelie, volunteer ICCC Public Relations Director, “Legal certainty and due process not only attract investment, reassure international tourists, and build a national reputation but are necessary and fundamental pillars of the rule of law in Indonesia. The ICCC has been carefully monitoring the Jakarta Intercultural School criminal case since the serious allegations were first levied in the spring of 2014 against the Indonesian cleaners and later against the JIS teachers. The reported irregularities in the investigative process, lack of reliable evidence and transparency raise questions and concerns- We are troubled both in terms of the handling and outcome of these cases as a matter of justice, and the negative impact of the national and international scrutiny Indonesia is currently enduring.”
We are hopeful that as these cases proceed through the Indonesian appellate process, all the relevant evidence will be given due consideration in a fair and imparlial manner as guaranteed by the lndonesian Constitution in the interests of justice and lndonesia’s national economic priorities of developing trade, investment and financial inclusion.
Monday, April 6, 2015
JAKARTA (April 2, 2015) ‑ AmCham Indonesia wishes to express its deep concern about the potential negative impact on the foreign investment environment of the April 2 guilty verdicts against two teachers, Ferdinand Tjiong, an Indonesian and Neil Bantleman, a Canadian at the Jakarta Intercultural School – formerly the Jakarta International School.
The initial accusations of child abuse are obviously troubling and are of great concern to parents and educators everywhere. However, so many significant doubts have been raised concerning the investigation of this case, and the related cases of the ISS cleaners, by the police, the evidence put forward (and not put forward by the prosecution), and the handling of these cases by the Indonesian courts, that AmCham Indonesia feels obliged to give voice to its concerns whether the rule of law and due process of law have been followed.
AmCham Indonesia’s concerns are not just because a foreign teacher has been convicted. Of the seven individuals convicted in the two cases, six of them are Indonesian. AmCham’s concern is that the reported irregularities and abuses referenced above have a negative impact on the perception of potential and actual investors concerning the rule of law, due process and legal certainty in particular and the investment climate in general. Indonesians and foreigners alike are entitled to these fundamental rights. Even a perceived lack of fairness in these cases could have a serious impact on Indonesia’s ability to attract future value-added investment needed to advance the country’s GDP growth aspirations.
Fundamental to the ability to attract quality foreign investment and know-how is the availability of high quality international schools to serve the families of both diplomats and foreign business experts relocated to Indonesia, in addition to the Indonesian community. JIS is one of the best and most prestigious educational institutions in Indonesia and indeed the world. Established in 1951, JIS is a crucial Indonesian institution and asset that has historically contributed positively to the investment climate in the country. Beyond that, the relationships that have been built among its Indonesian and foreign students have greatly benefitted each and have lead to greater understanding and mutual respect for one another’s cultures and values.
Fearing unjust accusations and related outcomes, the highly qualified expatriate teachers who have together with their Indonesian colleagues made JIS what it is today may choose to work in other countries rather than Indonesia, resulting in a lack of qualified educational options to properly serve JIS’ students and the diplomatic and expatriate business communities in Indonesia.
As such, at a time when the Government of Indonesia is seeking to promote quality economic growth and increased foreign and domestic investment in targeted areas, these cases have captured the world’s attention and we urge the courts to proceed with the utmost care to address the expected and current appeals in a robust and transparent manner to ensure outcomes that are evidence-based and consistent with the rule of law to achieve justice and fairness for all concerned.
About Amcham Indonesia
Formed in 1971, AmCham Indonesia is a voluntary organization of professionals representing American companies operating in Indonesia. AmCham Indonesia promotes the business interests of the members by identifying and focusing on critical issues that improve the business climate, actively engaging stakeholders to achieve mutual understanding, serving as a key resource for business information, and delivering forums for U.S. business networks. Since its inception, AmCham has grown to more than 550 members and represents over 250 companies.
Mary Silaban: 0812-1919 7773
Read statement at Amcham Indonesia