Neil Bantleman 'scared, fragile' in Indonesian jail, wife says

Arrested for alleged sexual assault on students at the international school where he teaches, Burlington's Neil Bantleman waits for word of charges against him as a key deadline approaches. His wife visits him daily and supporters of the former Calgary teacher are rallying for him here in Canada.

Candlelight vigils held in Alberta and Ontario

Tracy and Neil Bantleman. She has visited him every day he is jailed, awaiting word of the charges against him. (Free Neil Bantleman & Ferdi Tjiong/Facebook)
On Friday, outside the walls of a Jakarta jail, all that Canadian Tracy Bantleman can do for her husband, is wait.

Neil Bantleman, A Canadian teacher has been detained in Indonesia for more than two weeks, alleged to have sexually assaulted three students at the school where he taught.

Thursday was the last day of the week when Bantleman, from Burlington Ont., could accept  visitors at the prison where he's being held.

Tracy, who also taught at the school too, stays to visit for as long as she can. That's what she's done for each of the last 18 days.

He is so scared inside. He is fragile.- Tracy Bantleman
At 3 p.m., she's told to leave.

"Leaving is the hardest part. Having to leave your husband and knowing and hearing when you hug him, his heart is racing. And holding him it doesn't matter. His heart rate is not going down. He is so scared inside. He is fragile," Tracy Bantleman said in a Skype interview from Jakarta late Thursday.

Vigils held

Back home in Burlington, Guy Bantleman, Neil's brother, helped organized candlelight  vigils in Canada. Thursday night's 9 p.m. vigil coincided with the daily vigil outside of the Jakarta International School, where Neil and Tracy Bantleman both taught.

Two more were planed for 10 a.m. in Alberta. One scheduled for Okotoks, where the couple last lived, and in Calgary at the Webber Academy where they previously taught.

So far, nineteen candles have been lit, one for each day Bantleman has been held  without formal charges laid against him. Local lawyers tell Tracy her husband can be held for 20 days without evidence, and another 40 more if evidence is presented.

They also tell her to keep Bantleman longer, prosecutors would have needed to file a letter with the court a week ago. 

No letter has been sent to Bantleman or his lawyers. But Tracy Bantleman said, "Nothing, at this point will surprise us. We have continually hit a brick wall."

So on Thursday, the couple made plans for after his Saturday release.

So too did Ferdinand Tjiong, an Indonesian teaching assistant also arrested in the alleged sexual assault, which started in March when six cleaners were arrested for raping a young boy in March.

On July 14, Bantleman and Tjiong voluntarily went in for police questioning, but they've never left.

Tracy says her husband shares the detention cell with six other men.

Dark reality

There's a mat, a  fan, a mattress on the floor, running water and a Western toilet. There's also three Chinese ­Indonesians who she says aren't sure why they're being held. She also says there's a British man who's been there for four months. He, according to Tracy, is in jail for a bar fight.

"They go to sleep, they're hopeful. They wake up and they're in a dark reality," Tracy said.

"Can I say that they're well rested? Can I say that they're feeling safe and secure? No. It's  still prison."

Tracy Bantleman said to pass the time her husband is teaching Tjiong yoga. He, in turn, is teaching Bantleman chess. They're both watching a lot of Kung­Fu movies, but there isn't much rest in a prison that holds some 100 men in one block, and 100 more facing more serious violent crimes in another.