Indonesia overturns acquittal of 2 international school teachers convicted of student abuse

Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman (left) and Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong in a holding cell before their trial in Indonesia, on April 2, 2015.
Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman (left) and Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong in a holding cell before their trial in Indonesia, on April 2, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (Reuters/AFP) - Indonesia's Supreme Court has overturned the acquittal of two teachers, a Canadian and Indonesian, convicted of sexually abusing students at an international Jakarta school and ordered them to serve out their original sentence.

The two teachers were originally sentenced to 10 years in prison but were acquitted in August last year.

The Supreme Court reimposed the sentence and added another year to their sentence.

"They have been sentenced again to 11 years," Supreme Court spokesman Suhadi said by phone.

Canadian national teacher Neil Bantleman and Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong were convicted on charges of abusing kindergarten students at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS).

Both have been ordered back to jail, a court official said Thursday, the latest dramatic twist in the long-running case.

Tjiong was returned to jail early on Thursday but the authorities are still looking for Bantleman, said Mr Chandra Saptaji, spokesman for South Jakarta district attorney's office.

"We have executed the ruling against (Tjiong), we have put him back in Cipinang prison this morning to serve his sentence," Mr Saptaji said, referring to a Jakarta jail. "We are still looking for Neil, we hope he will cooperate."

When prosecutors appealed the acquittals, authorities ordered the Bantleman to remain in Indonesia. Mr Rully Iskandar, a spokesman for JIS, said Bantleman's travel ban was supposed to remain in place until the end of February, pending the Supreme Court decision, but gave no indication where he was currently.

"We have been communicating with Neil's and Ferdi's family and of course they were shocked, this is unexpected," said Mr Iskandar.

The case against the two was heavily criticised as fraught with irregularities and the men received strong support from foreign governments and the JIS, which has been a favourite with expatriates and wealthy Indonesians for decades.

The pair were jailed in April last year after being found guilty of abusing young children at JIS. They appealed and were freed from prison in September after the High Court in Jakarta unexpectedly overturned their convictions, citing a lack of evidence.

However, prosecutors then appealed the acquittals. Five Indonesian cleaners were also jailed last year for committing sexual abuse at JIS. Their lawyers claim they are innocent.