April 2, 2015 / 11:30 AM / in 3 years

Canadian jailed in Indonesia for child sex abuse after disputed trial

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A Canadian teacher and an Indonesian teaching assistant were sentenced to 10 years in jail on Thursday for sexually abusing three boys at an international school in Jakarta, in a case that critics say was fraught with irregularities.

Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman sits in a holding cell before his verdict in a South Jakarta court April 2, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

Neil Bantleman and Ferdinand Tjiong came were found guilty of abusing kindergarten pupils at the Jakarta Intercultural School. All of the boys were from expatriate families.

The court in the Indonesian capital sentenced Bantleman and Tjiong to each serve 10 years in prison and pay a fine of 100 million rupiah ($7,600).

The four-month trial follows that of a group of the school’s janitors, five of whom were sentenced to up to eight years in jail in December for raping one of the boys. Their lawyers have said they would appeal, local media said.

Many expatriates and diplomats in Jakarta send their children to the U.S. embassy-backed school, which was until recently called the Jakarta International School.

Bantleman said in a statement that he planned to appeal against the verdict, at which a loud cheer went up in the packed Jakarta courtroom.

“This is a complete miscarriage of justice,” he said. “We’ll continue to fight and appeal until the truth comes out, and the truth is that Ferdi and I never abused those kids.”

Tjiong said he would also appeal.

CONCERNS

Indonesia’s judicial system is seen as among the least credible and most corrupt institutions in the country, according to Transparency International and this case will stoke foreign investors’ concerns about legal certainty in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Blake said in a statement he was “deeply disappointed” with the verdict.

Defense lawyers of Bantleman and Tjiong had argued that the investigation and testimony from the victims were flawed, local media said.

Critics also cited a lack of transparency in the proceedings, including a court order banning both sides from speaking to the media.

“We are very concerned about the impact of this proceeding on the rule of law and legal certainty,” said Lin Neumann, managing director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Jakarta, before the verdict. “Foreign investors, Americans in particular, have been watching very carefully,” he said.

Additional reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Randy Fabi and Raissa Kasolowsky

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