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Bantleman and Tjiong’s Acquittal Overturned

Former JIS teacher Neil Bantleman behind bars. Courtesy of CBC.

Indonesia’s Supreme Court today overturned the acquittal of Canadian Neil Bantleman and Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong.

The former JIS teachers were sentenced to prison for allegedly sexually abusing kindergarten-aged boys between January 2013 and March 2014. The case against the two was heavily criticized as fraught with irregularities, however even without substantiating evidence the pair were jailed in April last year.

Bantleman and Tjiong were originally sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the verdict was overturned by the Jakarta High Court in September, allowing them to go free. Pending the government’s appeal, neither of them were allowed to leave the country, and passports were revoked.

Today the Supreme Court ordered Bantleman and Tjiong to serve 11 years each, one year more than their original sentence, spokesman Suhadi told AFP.

It is not clear if Bantleman can appeal. The reasoning for this decision is also not clear.

Rully Iskandar, a spokesman for JIS, told reporters Bantleman’s travel ban was supposed to remain in place until the end of February, pending the Supreme Court decision. He gave no indication where Bantleman was currently.

“We have been communicating with Neil’s and Ferdi’s family and of course they were shocked, this is unexpected,” said Iskandar.

South Jakarta’s district attorney office says that Tjiong has been re-imprisoned at Cipinang Penitentiary, however Bantleman’s whereabouts are unknown at this time. They hope he will cooperate.

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

You can read Indonesia Expat’s interviews with the female JIS cleaner in jail here and with the male JIS cleaners in jail here.

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