10 Years for Canadian JIS Teacher Found Guilty of Abusing Students
[Updated at 10:37 a.m. on Thursday, April 2, 2015, to add further details]
Jakarta. Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman and an Indonesian teaching assistant have both been sentenced to 10 years’ jail for sexually abusing three boys at the prestigious Jakarta International School.
South Jakarta District Court ruled on Thursday both men were guilty of abusing the boys, concluding a controversial and much-criticized trial.
Bantleman and teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong were sentenced to 10 years in prison and given a Rp 100 million ($7,700) fine each.
Both have maintained their innocence and say they will appeal the verdict.
Supporters of the two men claim there is no medical or other evidence to suggest the young students were sexually abused, but judges found otherwise.
“This is a complete miscarriage of justice,” Bantleman said in a statement. “We’ll continue to fight and appeal until the truth comes out, and the truth is that Ferdi and I never abused those kids.”
Last July, a parent stepped forward accusing Bantleman and Ferdinand of sexually abusing her son in the school’s administrative office. She also claimed the kindergarten principal had videotaped the assault.
The accusations against the two followed another sexual abuse investigation centering on a group of six janitors, who were accused of raping a 6-year-old boy in a school bathroom.
In December, five janitors were found guilty in this case, and were sentenced to prison terms of up to eight years. Prosecutors had demanded ten-year sentences in this case. Lawyers for the convicts said at the time that they would file appeals.
One among the group of janitors committed suicide in police custody before the trial reached a conclusion.
A prominent child rights activist said earlier on Thursday that prosecutors should have demanded much harsher sentences.
Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas PA), said Article 82 from Law No. 23 (2002) on child protection calls for a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, and a minimum of five.
“If we look at the future impact on children who experience sexual violence, I think this isn’t fair,” Arist said at the South Jakarta District Court. “We’re not getting the most out of this law.”
Stressing that he hoped the court would fairly assess all the facts presented in the case, Arist added that he would prefer a life sentence for people convicted of child abuse.
“Of course the innocent should not be convicted, but for the guilty I want the maximum punishment.”
The court started reading the verdict against Bantleman on Thursday morning, but the process took almost until 6 p.m., due in part to the fact that an English translation was also read out, to help Bantleman understand.
Presiding Judge Nur Aslam Bustaman also on several occasions had to remind people in attendance to remain calm.
JIS, a prestigious institution mainly catering to children of expats and wealthy Indonesians, is currently called Jakarta Intercultural School.
Additional reporting Reuters
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Source: The Jakarta Globe