Neil Bantleman, one year in jail
Canadian teacher talks about his last year behind bars in Jakarta and appealing his 10-year sentence
Neil Bantleman starts his day with a stationary run on his yoga mat. He meditates, then he bathes in his cell using a mandi — an Indonesian bath that consists of a tiled-in pool of water with a ladle tied down with a string.
His wife Tracy brings him breakfast, in one of two visits daily she makes to Cipinang, a maximum security prison in Indonesia. The question on both their minds each day is whether this will be their lives for the next 10 years?
- Neil Bantleman
Cipinang is where he is serving a 10-year sentence for assault and child sexual abuse of a group of children at the international school he taught at, the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS).
One year ago today, on July 14, 2014, Bantleman voluntarily went to the Jarkarta police station for questioning in a child sexual assault case. He has been behind bars ever since, enduring a lengthy detention without charges and then a trial in which his family says their entire defense was thrown out.
The Burlington native, who also taught in Calgary, Alta., with Tracy before the pair moved to Jakarta to teach at the JIS, has appealed the court decision. Their new reality is a life that has left both he and his wife drained.
"Tracy and I are tired, it has been an intense year and we continue to wonder why we are still in this situation," Bantleman told his wife Tracy, answering questions for journalists which she provided to CBC News.
"Right now our colleagues from JIS are all out of the country visiting their families for the holiday break. It is hard for us to be in this position, but we have a strong group of Indonesian friends and supporters that continue to stand with us during this time."
Bantleman was arrested with an Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinant Tjiong, who both maintain their innocence in the alleged assault against three kindergarten-aged boys.
They pointed to a $125-million civil suit against the JIS from one of the parents as the motive for the charges. Six janitors were already arrested in the alleged assault, five of which were found guilty and were sentenced up to eight years. Another died in custody before the trail began.
"We are cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the High Court appeal," Bantleman said. "But there are so many times we have been disappointed we try to temper that optimism with a sense of reality and understanding that cases in Indonesia often take (a long) time to overturn.
"The court system must be (given) the space to carefully review documents at the higher levels, and we hope they do that with the utmost integrity and fairness."
He has written to the Prime Minister's office, before and after the decision, but there does not appear to be any diplomatic rescue effort underway.
The injustice continues...we will NOT GIVE UP THIS FIGHT!! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NF1YearTooLong?src=hash">#NF1YearTooLong</a> <a href="http://t.co/vcVV4GVKQF">pic.twitter.com/vcVV4GVKQF</a>—@TBantl
Bantleman's trial began in December and included allegations he raped the boys in multiple locations, including inside his glass-walled office, and that he used a "magic stone" to anaesthetise the boys. Candlelight vigils have been held in Bantleman's hometown of Burlington, as well as in Calgary where he taught for 10 years at the Webber Academy, and in Jakarta as well.
The JIS has about 2,400 students aged three to 18. Many of them are children of diplomats and other foreigners living in the country.