Indonesia overturns acquittal of 2 international school teachers convicted of child sex abuse

Indonesia overturns acquittal of 2 international school teachers convicted of child sex abuse
PHOTO: Reuters

JAKARTA - A Canadian and an Indonesian have been ordered back to jail for committing sex abuse at Jakarta international school after their acquittals were overturned, a court official said Thursday, the latest dramatic twist in the long-running case.

The Supreme Court in Jakarta on Wednesday overturned the acquittals handed down by a lower court in the case of administrator Neil Bantleman, who also holds British nationality, and teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong, a court spokesman said.

They were ordered to serve 11 years each, one year more than their original sentences of 10 years, for abusing young children at the school, spokesman Suhadi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.

The case against the two was heavily criticised as fraught with irregularities and the men received strong support from foreign governments and the elite Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS), which has been a favourite with expatriates and wealthy Indonesians for decades.

Tjiong was returned to jail early Thursday but authorities are still looking for Bantleman, said Chandra Saptaji, spokesman for South Jakarta district attorney's office.

"We have executed the ruling against (Tjiong), we have put him back in Cipinang prison this morning to serve his sentence," Saptaji said, referring to a Jakarta jail.

"We are still looking for Neil, we hope he will co-operate." When prosecutors appealed the acquittals, authorities ordered Bantleman to remain in Indonesia.

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

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

The pair were jailed in April last year after being found guilty of abusing young children at JIS. They appealed and were freed from prison in September after the High Court in Jakarta unexpectedly overturned their convictions, citing a lack of evidence.

However, prosecutors then appealed the acquittals.

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

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