Indonesia frees teachers convicted of child abuse

Indonesian court frees two teachers accused of sexually abusing students at international school citing lack of proof

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

An Indonesian court has overturned convictions against two teachers who were sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing young students at a prestigious international school in Jakarta on Friday.

The ruling over a Canadian teacher, Neil Bantleman, and an Indonesian teaching assistant, Ferdinant Tjiong, came after allegations of irregularities that marred the case.

The teachers were convicted in April for violating Indonesia's child protection law but they rejected the charge saying the abuse claims were motivated by money. Their colleagues and the principal of the Jakarta Intercultural School have supported the accused men.

The US- embassy backed school's students, aged between 3 to 18,  are the children of diplomats, expatriates and Indonesia's elite, coming from nearly 60 countries.

Bantleman and Tjiong were accused of abusing three children in kindergarten last year but the court said none of the alleged abuses was proven and medical reports from three different hospitals in Jakarta and Singapore showed no major injuries or abnormalities in the children, AP reported. A $125 million civil case against the school was also thrown out by the same court on Monday.

The men's lawyer, Hotman Paris Hutapea, said "the previous verdict has been overturned by the Jakarta High Court because there was no evidence of sodomy."

"The truth is finally revealed and justice has been done," he told reporters.

Bantleman and Tjiong were met by dozens of cheering family members and supporters an East Jakarta prison before their release.

"The truth has finally come out," Canadian teacher told reporters tearfully.

The case was brought by parents of a 6-year-old student who claimed their child had been abused in the school. Four janitors were also sentenced to eight years for the alleged abuse despite allegations of torture in police custody. Another suspect killed himself in custody, police said during that time.

The case has opened up a debate over Indonesia's justice system which is criticized for flawed investigations and lack of transparency during trials.

TRTWorld and agencies