Criticism mounts in Jakarta abuse case as Canadian returned to jail

Criticism mounts in Jakarta abuse case as Canadian returned to jail

JAKARTA - A Canadian-British man was returned to prison Friday after his acquittal for sex abuse at a Jakarta international school was overturned, drawing criticism from London in a case that has raised questions about the rule of law in Indonesia.

Neil Bantleman, an administrator at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS), was returned to jail in the Indonesian capital, an official said, a day after his co-defendant, teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong, was also sent back to prison.

The men were jailed in April last year for 10 years each for abusing young children at JIS after a legal process which was criticised as fraught with irregularities and drew criticism from Canada, Britain and the United States.

They were freed several months later when their convictions were overturned on appeal, but were ordered back to jail after news emerged Thursday that the Supreme Court had overturned their acquittals, and extended their sentences by one year each.

Bantleman, who is a dual national, and Tjiong have always maintained their innocence, and received strong backing from the expatriate community and the school, which has been a favourite with foreigners and wealthy Indonesians for decades.

The British ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, added his voice to growing international criticism of the case Friday, saying Britain was "deeply concerned" by the Supreme Court decision.

"There have been on-going allegations of serious irregularities in the original court proceedings," he said in a statement.

"Along with others, we have made repeated calls to ensure this case is handled in a fair and transparent manner. Yesterday's development adds to serious questions about transparency and consistency in the rule of law in Indonesia." His comments came after Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said Thursday his government was "deeply dismayed and shocked" at the "unjust" decision, and the US ambassador to Indonesia said America was "shocked and disappointed".

Bantleman was not immediately sent back to prison on Thursday as he was on the resort island of Bali.

However, he returned to Jakarta late in the evening, and was taken to a prison in the east of the city early Friday, Chandra Saptaji, a spokesman for South Jakarta district attorney's office, told AFP.

He said that Bantlemen "seemed OK" as he was returned to jail.

The scandal began in 2013 when accusations were directed at cleaners at the school before allegations were levelled at Bantleman and Tjiong.

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

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