Neil Bantleman, 45, has been held by Indonesian police Tuesday on allegations he sexually assaulted students at the Jakarta International School.
By: Paul Clarke Staff Reporter, Published on Sat Jul 19 2014
Neil Bantleman, 45, from Burlington, was detained by Indonesian police Tuesday morning, local time, after nearly nine hours of questioning by police who are investigating allegations he sexually assaulted students at the Jakarta International School.
“It’s a teacher’s worst nightmare,” said Chris Megaffin, a Canadian colleague who worked with Bantleman at the school for four years. “There is no evidence to support these allegations. In many ways Neil has been caught in the cross-fire of this whole situation.”
Bantleman was detained with his colleague Ferdinand Tjiong, an Indonesian teaching assistant. Neither has been charged.
Their arrest follows accusations in March that a janitor at the school raped a five-year-old boy in a school bathroom, according to the Wall Street Journal. Two other families then came forward claiming their children were also victims of sexual assault at the school. Police detained six janitors, one of whom died in an apparent suicide in April. The others remain in custody after offering confessions, though the details aren’t known.
One of the families has sued the school for $125 million.
According to Indonesian law, police are allowed to detain a suspect for 20 days without charge and can extend that for another 20 days without a judicial overview.
Bantleman’s wife, Tracy, told the Star from Jakarta that her husband has been fully cooperating with police, who have been holding his passport since May. She said staff from the Canadian Embassy have spoken to him and a high-profile Indonesian lawyer, Hotman Paris Hutapea, has taken on the case pro bono.
“I have personally asked the president of the country and the police to cooperate together to be as objective as possible and to release our husbands as soon as possible, because we have been nothing but cooperative throughout the case,” she said, fighting back tears.
She said the evidence police claim to have is very suspect and relies entirely on a child’s testimony and the testimony of a witness who happens to be the child’s friend. “Those two pieces of evidence have not been made clear by the Jakarta police to the families or the lawyers.”
She said her husband and his colleague are in good physical condition under the circumstances, but were taken to the national police headquarters for a lie-detector test, which they refused, because their lawyer and the embassy were not informed.
She also said both men were recently put in a police lineup behind a two-way mirror without their lawyers present.
“My husband communicated to me that other people standing in the lineup were the actual police investigators that he has seen several times that are investigating this case,” she said.
Neil’s brother Guy Bantleman, who lives in Burlington, said the police have searched his brother’s office and apartment, but have provided no evidence to keep his brother behind bars.
“He’s been unlawfully detained, as far as we’re aware, for someone who has been cooperating with the authorities, because there is no story and nothing to hide,” he said. “It really is about human rights and freedom at this point. Incarcerating him doesn’t make any sense.”
The American, British and Australian embassies in Jakarta collectively condemned the decision to detain both men, in a statement released last Tuesday: “As the three founding embassies of the Jakarta International School (JIS), we are deeply concerned about the detention of several JIS teachers last night. We believe JIS and its teachers have closely cooperated with police authorities, and we are surprised at these developments given the presumption of innocence in Indonesian law.”
The Jakarta International School, founded in 1951, is the country’s largest international school. About 2,600 students attend, many of them children of wealthy executives, diplomats and government ministers.
A Facebook group, ‘Free Neil Bantleman and Ferdi Tjiong,’ garnered nearly 750 people in less than a week.
John Babcock, spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, stated via email on Sunday that Canadian consular officials are providing assistance to a Canadian being detained in Indonesia, although he did not mention Bantleman specifically.
“Consular officials are engaged with local authorities to gather additional information.”
“To protect the private and personal information of the individual concerned, further details on this case cannot be released,” added Babcock.
An email to the Jakarta police force was not returned Saturday evening, nor a phone call to the school in Jakarta.