Asia

Indonesian jails Canadian-Briton and Indonesian for child sex abuse

Neil Bantleman (R) is met by his wife Tracy Bantleman are met by their wives at court in Jakarta, Indonesia (2 April 2015) Image copyright AFP
Image caption The men - here met by their wives - say the court dismissed evidence in their favour

A British-Canadian teacher and an Indonesian have been jailed for 10 years for sexually abusing three children at a Jakarta kindergarten.

Neil Bantleman and Ferdinant Tjiong were found guilty of abusing pupils at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS).

Both denied the charges and will appeal against the "miscarriage of justice".

Their supporters have criticised prosecutors' handling of the case. Both the UK and US embassies have also raised concerns.

The British embassy in Jakarta said it was "aware of concerns about irregularities" in the case, and said it was disappointed it was not allowed access to Bantleman during the trial.

The US embassy said there were "serious questions" to be asked about the investigation and the "lack of credible evidence".

It said it hoped the appeal process would be fair and the "outcome of this legal process and what it reveals about the rule of law in Indonesia will have a significant impact on Indonesia's reputation abroad".

Hospital evidence

Prosecutors had told the South Jakarta District Court that Tjiong and Bantleman - Canadian-born with British citizenship - repeatedly raped three young boys aged about five at the prestigious international school over the course of several months.

The boys had testified that they were sodomised in "secret rooms" at the school.

Presiding Judge Nur Aslam Bastaman ruled that Bantleman had "deliberately committed violence and obscene acts" and that there was "no reason to forgive the defendant". He was also fined 100m rupiah ($7,700; £5,180).

After sentencing, Bantleman told the court: "This is a complete miscarriage of justice. We'll continue to fight and appeal until the truth comes out, and the truth is that Ferdi and I never abused those kids."

The men's supporters have raised multiple concerns over the judicial process.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Tjiong and Bantleman were supported by some parents and students at the school during their trial

The BBC's Alice Budisatrijo, who was at the court, says most of the evidence provided by the defence was rejected by the court, including an expert opinion that the children had been subjected to leading questioning that had altered their memories of events.

The court also rejected a medical assessment from a hospital in Singapore which said there was no sign one of the boys had been sodomised, in favour of a conflicting Indonesian police hospital report.

And in a move the court said was to protect the children, foreign diplomats were barred from all but one hearing.

The Jakarta Intercultural School is a popular choice for foreign diplomats and wealthy expatriates and Indonesians.

In December last year, four male cleaners were sentenced to eight years in prison over the same case, while a female cleaner was jailed as an accomplice.

A sixth male member of staff is alleged to have killed himself while in police custody.

The family of one of the boys involved is suing the school for $125m (£84m) in compensation in a separate trial.

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