Indonesia to free international school teachers charged with sexually abusing students

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 13, 2015 11:41 PM

By Angie Teo

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia will free two teachers who were jailed for sexually abusing students at an international school, the pair's lawyer said on Friday, in a case critics say was fraught with irregularities.

Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman and Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong were found guilty in April of abusing kindergarten students at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS). They had been sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 100 million rupiah ($7,600).

"The previous verdict has been overturned by the Jakarta high court because there was no evidence of sodomy," the pair's lawyer Hotman Paris Hutapea told reporters at the court amid cheers from the teachers' families and supporters.

The decision comes on the heels of the rejection by a Jakarta court of a related multi-million dollar civil lawsuit against the school. That case was thrown out due to a lack of evidence.

The two cases had triggered concerns about the justice system in Indonesia, with observers criticizing the investigations as being flawed and the trial for a lack of transparency.

The case has been closely watched by expatriates and diplomats in Jakarta, many of whom send their children to the U.S.-embassy backed school.

"This is very good news for us," JIS head Tim Carr said in a note to the school community, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. "The lawyers and families are now working through the necessary paperwork to release (them) from prison."

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Guy Bantleman, Neil's brother, said in an email the teachers were expected to be released within 12 hours.

Indonesian authorities were not immediately available for comment.

(Additional reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)