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Wife of Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman calls for fair trial in Indonesia

The wife of a Canadian teacher urged for a fair trial on Thursday as the family sought to file a judicial review in an attempt to overturn the case.

Tracy Bantleman says the Supreme Court decision to re-convict her husband was rushed

Neil Bantleman hugs his wife, Tracy, ahead of another day in court in Indonesia last year. The Canadian teacher is currently serving an 11-year sentence in a Jakarta prison. (Victoria Botvin)

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  • March 29: Bantleman has been moved to a new cell and is getting treatment for back pain.

The wife of a Canadian teacher urged for a fair trial on Thursday, as the family sought to file a judicial review in an attempt to overturn the case.

Neil Bantleman was re-arrested and returned to prison in late February after Indonesia's Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, overturned his acquittal on charges of sexually abusing kindergarten children at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS), where children of many expatriates, diplomats and wealthy Indonesians are enrolled.

Bantleman and Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong were sentenced to 11 years in jail.

Speaking to Reuters on Thursday, Tracy Bantleman urged the court to be careful in examining the case.

You're innocent until proven guilty and I just think that throughout that whole case, public opinion has pushed an image on Neil and Ferdy and the cleaners that they're guilty.- Tracy Bantleman

"For the people working on this case at the judicial level, I just ask them to please be very careful and thorough in the examination of the case and make a just and fair decision based on the rule of law.

"You're innocent until proven guilty and I just think that throughout that whole case, public opinion has pushed an image on Neil and Ferdy and the cleaners that they're guilty.

"So there is no evidence, there's nothing to say or connect Neil and Ferdy with these three alleged victims," she said.

Bantleman and Tjiong were originally sentenced to 10 years in jail but were acquitted in August, 2015 after nearly a year behind bars, and released. 

Strong statements from Canadian government

"So we felt like we got justice at the high court, the decision made by the panel of judges at the Supreme Court was rushed. It was reckless, I can't understand how a panel of judges can be assigned on Monday and by early Wednesday morning have a decision on the case this complex," Tracy Bantleman added.

Tjong was re-arrested at his house at midnight on February 25 while Bantleman who was in Bali at that time turned himself in the next day. 

Ambassadors from Canada, United States, United Kingdom and Australia expressed concerns over the fairness and transparency of the hearing following the decision of Supreme Court. 

Bantleman welcomed the support from the Canadian government and Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion.

"The coordinating minister advised the embassies that we go forward with the judicial review and that is another legal step.

"Embassies cannot be involved in the legal process but they can certainly request that that proceeds in very transparent and timely manner which they have, So along side the very strong statement of the Canadian government and the very strong comments by our foreign minister, Stéphane Dion, our family is feeling great sense of support and also great sense of relief," she said.

Bantleman's family said they plan to go ahead with the judicial review, which is the last resort to overturn the conviction. Their legal team is waiting for the Supreme Court document which states the reasons for overturning the acquittal. 

The earliest the document could be released is mid-April and the judicial review has to be filed by end of May.

A bug-infested, cramped cell

When asked about the new evidence that was submitted by an Indonesian prosecutor to the Supreme Court, the prosecutor's spokesperson declined to comment.

"I cannot discuss the content of the trial material that was submitted, if you want to talk about it, it's up to you. If the convicted doesn't accept the condition they still have a legal step which is the judicial review and propose new evidence," said Waluyo Yahya.

We are a democracy, we have our system, we have our law and we never, Indonesia will never ask any country to interfere in another country's judicial system.- Foreign Ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir

In Canada, Bantleman's brother, Guy Bantleman has met parliament members in order to garner support for the judicial review of the case.

"We are pleased to finally see the support Neil's has deserved all along being provided by the Government and Global Affairs," he wrote in a news release last.  "There are a number of initiatives being pursued involving all levels of the Government, from both sides of the House. These diplomatic actions are imperative to achieving Neil's release."

Guy said his brother's cell is not clean, it's cramped and bug-infested. There are no beds in Neil's cell; he's been sleeping on a yoga mat on the cement floor.

Guy said a support team in Jakarta is working on a way to move Neil to a safer environment, while he and a team in Canada work with government officials to find a way to bring Neil home.

Indonesia's foreign ministry spokesman said he hoped this case would not impact relations with Canada.

"We are a democracy, we have our system, we have our law and we never, Indonesia will never ask any country to interfere in another country's judicial system. So if the case or whether we see this as a issue that will have some impact into the bilateral relationship from our side I certainly hope not," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir. 

The case, which critics say was fraught with irregularities, has brought Indonesia's justice system under scrutiny with Western nations raising concerns about legal certainty in the Southeast Asia's biggest nation.

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