Neil Bantleman, jailed in Indonesia for child sex abuse, loses release bid; questions over verdict remain

Neil Bantleman, jailed in Indonesia for child sex abuse, loses release bid; questions over verdict remain

Neil Bantleman, jailed in Indonesia for child sex abuse, loses release bid; questions over verdict remain

Updated 30 October 2017, 7:35 AEDT

A Canadian teacher serving an 11-year sentence in Jakarta for child sex abuse fails in his last legal bid to be released, but serious questions remain over the legitimacy of the guilty verdict against him.

For Tracy Bantleman it has been a long battle to free her husband, who she says, without a skerrick of doubt, is innocent of the most damning of charges.

Key points:

  • Neil Bantleman was jailed for 11 years for allegedly raping school children
  • But there are questions over the legitimacy of the guilty verdict against him
  • His only chance of early release now is presidential clemency

Canadian man Neil Bantleman, a former teacher at the prestigious Jakarta Intercultural School, was first jailed in 2015 for allegedly sexually abusing kindergarten children.

He was briefly released in February 2016 on appeal, but his freedom was short lived and he was jailed again by a higher court.

Now the 48-year-old's final legal bid for freedom, a judicial review, has failed.

He will continue to serve his 11-year jail term in Jakarta's grossly overcrowded Cipinang prison.

The decision again shines a spotlight on the quality, independence and integrity of Indonesia's judicial system.

The school, independent investigators, and the United States, British, Canadian and Australian embassies in Jakarta have all questioned the legitimacy of the guilty verdict.

"The outcome of the legal process will impact international views about the rule of law in Indonesia," the US Ambassador Robert Blake said in a February 2016 statement.

At the time, Australia's Ambassador Paul Grigson said he hoped due process would be followed.

For Ms Bantleman, it's always been a difficult balance of whether to speak out or remain silent and work quietly behind the scenes.

In 2016, she decided it was the right way forward to work with the ABC's Foreign Correspondent program to tell the story of her jailed husband.

"It's no longer a marathon, it's an ultra-marathon," Ms Bantleman said at the time.

"You really need to pace yourself because it's exhausting and stressful."

Bantleman, his Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong and five cleaners from the school were jailed for allegedly raping the school children. One of the accused cleaners is a woman.

A sixth cleaner died in police custody, amid allegations he'd been beaten.

"Where is the evidence? It's as simple as that," Chris O'Connor, the former head of the Child Exploitation Unit and the Sexual Crime Squad in Victoria Police, told Foreign Correspondent last year.

"I'm prepared to offer up my personal and professional reputation to unequivocally declare that these seven people did not commit the offence for which they've been convicted."

Mr O'Conner, who was employed by the school to assist with investigations, demanded a UN investigation into the case.

As Foreign Correspondent revealed in 2016, the judges in the initial trial gave substantial weight to the evidence provided by Indonesian sexologist Neal Tobing to assess whether Bantleman's sex life had caused him to become a paedophile.

Drawing from Dr Tobing's testimony, the judgement found Bantleman's sex life was "rather abnormal" as he did not masturbate and had limited sex with his wife.

"Since they have been married sex is quite rare, once a week," the judgement noted.

"Normally it happens every day or at least two or three times per week... the question is exactly how does he channel his sexual needs."

The only chance of release for Bantleman now is presidential clemency.

"I know Neil is innocent, he knows he is innocent," Ms Bantleman told Foreign Correspondent.

"It needs to be known that I am standing beside my husband because he's an innocent man.

"The injustice is massive but that doesn't mean it's insurmountable, and so we'll just keep climbing and fighting for a long as it takes."

Canadian media have reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is working with Indonesian officials to try and have Bantleman freed.