Neil Bantleman's wife Tracy calls his Indonesia rearrest 'inhumane' and 'absurd'

The wife of Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman says his rearrest on allegations he sexually abused kindergarten children in Indonesia is "inhumane" as his family decides to adopt a more aggressive tone in its fight for Neil's freedom.

Burlington, Ont., man and co-accused surrendered to local authorities Thursday

Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman hugs his wife Tracy Bantleman after he was released from Cipinang prison in Jakarta on Aug. 14. But he's back in custody, after the Supreme Court in Indonesia reversed the decision. (The Associated Press)

The wife of a Canadian teacher accused of sexually abusing kindergarten children at a private school in Jakarta said Friday his rearrest  is "inhumane."

Tracy Bantleman held a news conference on Friday, after Neil Bantleman of Burlington, Ont., and co-accused Ferdinand Tjiong had surrendered to local authorities in Indonesia. 

"What has happened is inhumane, ridiculous and absurd. Neil and Ferdy [Tijong] are honourable men," she said, calling on the country's legal system to conduct an "honourable" review of the case.

In 2014, Bantleman and Tjiong, an Indonesian teaching assistant, were convicted on charges of abusing kindergarten students at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS), where the children of many expatriates, diplomats and wealthy Indonesians are enrolled.

The two were originally sentenced to 10 years in jail, but were acquitted by the Jakarta High Court in August 2015, after nearly a year behind bars, and released. 

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that they be rearrested and increased their sentences to 11 years. There is an option of a judicial review, and Bantleman and his advocates will be asking for that — hoping to introduce new evidence uncovered by a CBC fifth estate investigation into the case.

Sometimes, a strong offence is a good defence, and we've got to get to that point where we're a little more aggressive.- Guy Bantleman

Tracy Bantleman appealed to the judiciary for a fair judgment. 

"The next steps we know are a judicial review and I can only pray and hope that the people in charge of this judicial review do honour to the country of Indonesia and make a professional, careful consideration — this is an extremely difficult case," she said. 

Bantleman was in Bali on holiday when he received the notice. 

When he arrived at the airport in Jakarta Thursday, he was met by Supreme Court officials, who took him away. 

Guy Bantleman, Neil's brother, said Neil turned himself in late Thursday Jakarta time. He's now back in a long-term facility at the Cipinang prison in Jakarta with Tjiong.

Guy said Neil was quiet, angry and frustrated as he was taken away. 

"When I first talked to him, he just couldn't comprehend having to spend more time in jail," he said. But in weighing his options, he realized he had no other choice.

Resolution through diplomacy

Guy said he had meetings with the parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs and Neil's case worker on Thursday. Over the following weeks, he has other meetings set up with the parliamentary secretary and consular services.

"I truly believe that diplomatic means is going to be the best way to resolve this, because it's apparent that the judicial system in Indonesia just can't figure this out," he said.

There are a lot of things Canada can do, but it's still unclear what Canada is willing to do, he said.

"You're dealing with a sovereign nation and their legal system, and I understand that, but Neil hasn't broken any laws. I think the whole legal process has been a sham based in greed and corruption, and enough is enough when it comes to waiting for the judicial system to figure itself out.

"We've been told before, you know, don't infuriate the judicial system, make sure you don't take shots at the judges and the process and Indonesians in general," he said.

"But unfortunately, sometimes, a strong offence is a good defence, and we've got to get to that point where we're a little more aggressive."

The family will now be getting help from a Toronto law firm specializing in extradition. This firm, which Guy said he was unable to name, understands the Indonesian process and will be able to invoke the diplomatic means and apply the legal pressure needed.

There are nuances within the Indonesian system that we as Canadians don't comprehend, he said. 

Wife of co-accused 'sad and very angry'

Tjiong's wife, Siska Tjiong, said she had visited her husband in prison. 

"I feel so sad and very angry. I just visited my husband this morning - we were only just allowed to visit him in prison because yesterday they did not give us chance to visit Ferdy," she said. 

Guy Bantleman said Friday that there is a plan to appeal the ruling through a judicial review. That review will bring up new evidence, including information contained in a CBC fifth estate report on his case

There was another medical test done by an independent body that was never used in any of the trials, Guy said. This test will be entered as evidence.

There was also plenty of information that was not allowed in the initial trial, he said. Lawyers will need to comb through it all and see what can be added.

"Now, I would like to say also, now we just only have hope because with hope, people could live. And we hope we can get good, professional, fair panel when we submit judicial review," added Tjiong's lawyer, Patra M. Zen. 

The case, which critics say was fraught with irregularities, has brought the country's justice system under scrutiny and raises doubts about legal certainty in Southeast Asia's biggest economy.

Canada has called the new ruling "unjust" and said Indonesia needs to consider the message it is sending about due process to the international community. 

The British ambassador to Indonesia repeated calls for fairness and transparency, as has the United States. 

With files from Reuters