Wife of Canadian man sent back to Indonesian jail over child abuse case slams 'travesty of justice'

Tracy Bantleman, the wife of Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman, reacts during a news conference in Jakarta.
Tracy Bantleman, the wife of Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman, reacts during a news conference in Jakarta.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (AFP) - The wife of a Canadian man whose acquittal for child sex abuse at an elite Indonesian school has been overturned tearfully vowed on Friday (Feb 26) to fight against the "travesty of justice" and launch a new appeal.

She also described the decision to reinstate the conviction of her husband, school administrator Neil Bantleman, as "inhumane, ridiculous and absurd", hours after he was sent back to jail in Jakarta.

His co-defendant Ferdinand Tjiong, an Indonesian teaching assistant at the elite Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS), has also returned to prison after the Supreme Court threw out the men's acquittals, and increased their sentences from 10 to 11 years.

The case has been criticised as fraught with irregularities and based on weak evidence. After news of the latest decision emerged on Thursday, Canada, Britain and the United States expressed shock and warned it raises questions about the rule of law in Indonesia.

The two men have always maintained their innocence, and have received strong support from the expatriate community and the school, which has been a favourite with foreigners and wealthy Indonesians for decades.

Bantleman's wife Tracy broke down in tears at a press conference in Jakarta on Friday, as she angrily criticised the decision to send her husband and Tjiong back to prison.

"Our husbands are innocent," she said, sitting alongside Tjiong's wife Sisca. "They always have been, they always will be, I have said that over and over again. What has happened is inhumane, ridiculous and absurd.

"This is a travesty of justice and the world knows it - this injustice will be exposed and we will fight for justice as long as it takes."

She said that the men planned to appeal the Supreme Court's decision by applying for a judicial review.

The pair were originally jailed in April last year for abusing young children at JIS.

They were released several months later after winning an appeal in the High Court, but prosecutors then successfully challenged this decision at the Supreme Court.

Mr Patra M. Zen, a lawyer for the men, said their legal team was still waiting to see a copy of the Supreme Court ruling before submitting the judicial review.

"We hope we can get a good, professional, fair panel when we submit the judicial review," he said.

Bantleman also holds British nationality, and the British ambassador to Indonesia Moazzam Malik added his voice on Friday to growing international criticism of the case, saying London was "deeply concerned" by the Supreme Court decision.

"Yesterday's development adds to serious questions about transparency and consistency in the rule of law in Indonesia," he said in a statement.

His comments came after Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said his government was "deeply dismayed and shocked" at the "unjust" decision, and the US ambassador to Indonesia said America was "shocked and disappointed".

Tjiong was sent back to jail on Thursday, but Bantleman only returned to prison on Friday, as he had to first return from the resort island Bali.

The scandal began in 2013 when accusations were directed at cleaners at the school before allegations were levelled at Bantleman and Tjiong.

Five Indonesian cleaners were also jailed last year for committing sexual abuse at JIS. Their lawyers maintain they are innocent.