Indonesia court rejects $173m sex abuse lawsuit against Jakarta International School

Jakarta International School (JIS) teachers Neil Bentleman (left) and Ferdinant Tjiong await their court hearing at the South Jakarta District Court on April 3, 2015.
Jakarta International School (JIS) teachers Neil Bentleman (left) and Ferdinant Tjiong await their court hearing at the South Jakarta District Court on April 3, 2015.PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A Jakarta court on Monday threw out a multimillion dollar sex abuse lawsuit against an international school, raising hopes for two teachers who were jailed in a related case that had triggered concerns about the justice system in Indonesia.

The Jakarta Intercultural School, a United States-embassy backed school, was sued for US$125 million (S$173 million) last year by a parent who claimed her son had been sexually abused by staff on school grounds.

Monday's ruling came after two teachers, a Canadian national and an Indonesian national, were jailed in April for abusing kindergarten pupils in a separate criminal case that critics say was fraught with irregularities.

Mr Harry Ponto, a lawyer representing the school, told reporters that Monday's decision could affect those sentences. "Hopefully this case can have a positive impact for our teachers who we believe are innocent," he said.

Many expatriates and diplomats in Jakarta send their children to the school, previously known as the Jakarta International School.

"The lawsuit is not accepted because the charges are not clear and the evidence presented is not enough to prove wrongdoing on the part of the school," Judge Haswandi told a packed Jakarta courtroom.

Members of the foreign community welcomed Monday's verdict, saying it would boost confidence in the judicial system, which is often seen as one of the least credible and consistent institutions in the country.

"If the future of the school is secured then this judgment sends the right message to the foreign investment community going forward," said Mr Lin Neumann, head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Jakarta.