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Canadian teacher goes free after sex abuse conviction in Indonesia

14 August 2015, 10:12

Jakarta - An Indonesian court has overturned convictions against a Canadian teacher and an Indonesian teaching assistant who were serving 10 years in prison for sexually abusing three young children at a prestigious international school in Jakarta, their lawyer said on Friday.

Neil Bantleman, aged 45, and Ferdinant 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.

Hotman Paris Hutapea, an Indonesian lawyer representing Bantleman and Tjiong, said the court overturned 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.

Also Read: Sexual abuse claims: UN turns up pressure on peacekeeping nations

"The truth is finally revealed and justice has been done," Hutapea told The Associated Press on Friday.

He has said that 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 $125m in compensation.

On Monday, the same district court that convicted Bantleman and Tjiong threw out the $125m civil case. It said it was not proven that any of the alleged abuses had taken place. New evidence from medical reports from three different hospitals in Jakarta and Singapore showed no major injuries or abnormalities in the three children, the court said.

The Indonesian rulings come after a court in Singapore ruled July 16 that the woman accusing Bantleman had defamed him, Tjiong and the school because the allegations of sexual abuse could not be proven.

It ordered her to pay $164 700 in damages. The case was brought in Singapore by Bantleman's family because the initial allegations were made in Singapore through emails, texts and other digital communications.

Hutapea said both decisions had an impact on the higher court's decision to free Bantleman and Tjiong.

The arrests of Bantleman and Tjiong in July last year followed allegations from parents of a 6-year-old boy at the school that he'd been sodomized.

Four male janitors were sentenced to eight years in prison in that case and a woman received a seven year prison sentence as an accomplice. Police said a sixth suspect killed himself in custody by drinking bathroom cleaner.

Hutapea said a copy of the higher court decision has to be taken to the district court to start the process of getting his clients released from prison. He said the men could be released this afternoon.

Prosecutors could not be reached for comment. The Jakarta High Court's decision could be appealed to the Supreme Court.

- AP


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