Neil Bantleman's family satisfied feds are 'taking this seriously'

The brother of a Canadian teacher currently serving an 11-year-sentence in Indonesia for a crime he says he didn't commit spent a few days in Ottawa this week, speaking to whomever he could to find a way to bring his brother back home.

Freeing Neil Bantleman requires diplomatic solution, not judicial: Guy Bantleman

The Burlington-based family of Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman, pictured at right in 2014, say they're satisfied the Canadian government is paying more than lip service to helping to free Neil from prison in Indonesia for a crime they staunchly deny he committed. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

After meeting with government officials in Ottawa this week, Guy Bantleman said his family is satisfied that the federal government is taking action in the case of his brother, Neil Bantleman, who is in prison in Indonesia for a crime he says he did not commit. 

"They (the federal government) need to take all that seriously and they seem to be," Guy Bantleman said.

Guy Bantleman and his partner Janet Gallucci travelled to the nation's capital on Wednesday to speak with members of parliament and other government officials about Neil.

Neil Bantleman and Indonesian assistant teacher Ferdinand Tjiong were originally sentenced to 10 years in prison, charged with sexually abusing children at a private school in Jakarta in 2014. In August 2015, they were acquitted by the Jakarta High Court and released after nearly a year behind bars. Last month, the Supreme Court overturned that acquittal and added an extra year to each of their sentences.

Guy Bantleman met this week with MPs and officials in the department of Global Affairs. 

The family has maintained Neil Bantleman was the victim of a corrupt Indonesian justice system and his brother said he came away with the feeling that the federal Liberals are serious about finding a way to get the teacher freed.

"We are very satisfied they're taking this seriously," Guy Bantleman said in a phone interview late Friday.

"They've laid out a plan as far as how very senior government officials will be involved over the ... coming weeks."

Bantleman said he couldn't share many details of what the involvement would be, only saying there would be "very significant high-level discussions going on."

The only way to bring Neil home is through some sort of diplomatic solution, he said, but it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

"We're past the stage of the 'wait and see.' We need to take action and move this forward as quick as possible."

Living in 'deplorable' conditions

Guy said he hasn't been able to talk to his brother since Neil turned himself in to Jakarta police on Feb. 25. Neil has no access to a phone and it's very difficult for Guy to arrange a phone meeting with him. Guy said he's hopeful he'll be able to connect with his brother over the next few days.

Tracy Bantleman, Neil's wife, has been able to visit him in prison almost daily and bring him food. Guy said Tracy describes her husband's living conditions as "deplorable."

People are seeing the inequities in law and due process in Indonesia and that frightens people.- Guy Bantleman

"It's not the same conditions that we faced previously. They seem to be much harsher," he said.

"Mosquitos, the heat, the cleanliness overall — I think that all encapsulates that (deplorable) comment," Guy said.

Prior to moving into a cell within the prison, Neil and Tjiong were held in a camp beside the prison with around 300 other inmates. Guy said his brother slept on a yoga mat on the concrete floor.

"I would assume the (current) cell conditions are very similar to that," Guy said.

A bad reputation

Guy said his brother's story has had an impact on the global community and has hurt Indonesia's reputation as a tourist destination.

"People are seeing the inequities in law and due process in Indonesia and that frightens people," he said.

Neil and his advocates will be filing a judicial review within the coming weeks, bringing forward evidence uncovered by a CBC fifth estate investigation into the case. 

With files from The Canadian Press

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