Australian ambassador hopes for "due process" in Indonesia school rape case

Hoping for acquital: Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Paul Grigson. Photo: Tatan Syuflana
Hoping for acquital: Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Paul Grigson. Photo: Tatan Syuflana

Jakarta: The Australian Ambassador to Indonesia says he hopes two teachers from a prestigious international school in Jakarta will be acquitted of the sexual abuse of preschoolers in line with a decision by the Indonesian High Court last year.

Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman and Indonesian teacher's aide Ferdinant Tjiong are back behind bars in Jakarta after last week's shock decision by the Supreme Court to reinstate their prison sentences on appeal.

Ambassador Paul Grigson said the two teachers from the Jakarta Intercultural School had been acquitted by the Indonesian High Court in 2015.

"We hope due process is followed and a similar verdict is handed down," he said.

Neil Bantleman (right) and left Ferdinand Tjiong in jail last year. Photo: Jewel Topsfield

Neil Bantleman (right) and left Ferdinand Tjiong in jail last year. Photo: Jewel Topsfield

"As a founding member of the board of the school we have a significant involvement in the Jakarta Intercultural School and will be following this case closely."

The US and British ambassadors to Indonesia and Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion have all expressed shock and dismay over the latest twist in the alleged rape saga, which has raised questions about the integrity of the Indonesian legal system.  

"There have been on-going allegations of serious irregularities in the original court proceedings," British ambassador Moazzam Malik‚Äč said in a statement on Friday.

"Yesterday's development adds to serious questions about transparency and consistency in the rule of law in Indonesia."

Mr Tjiong and Mr Bantleman are accused of sodomising three preschool boys at the Jakarta Intercultural School between January 2013 and March 2014. Five cleaners at the school have also been jailed for sexually abusing the same children.

The teachers' lawyer, Patra Zen, said they would lodge a judicial review. "We will ask the Supreme Court to review and examine how the law has been implemented," he said.

The legal team was also seeking a medical document from a hospital in Belgium that purportedly states one of the alleged victims had never contracted a sexually transmitted disease as had been claimed.

This would be submitted to the court as new evidence.

The legal team also claims a medical examination of one of the alleged victims in Singapore in May 2014 showed no signs of sexual abuse.

Mr Patra said it stretched credulity to suggest a boy who had allegedly been sodomised multiple times by seven adults would go back to school again the next day.

"We will keep fighting until justice is served," he said.

Mr Tjiong's wife, Sisca, said her husband had been rearrested at 2am by 10 armed men.

"They climbed the fence, they were banging on the window, I thought they were thieves," she said.

"My husband is not a terrorist, why is he being treated as if he was a terrorist?'

"I have no more tears in me, what is left is just anger."

Mr Bantleman's wife, Tracy, said the couple had been holidaying in Bali to escape the stress of Jakarta when they learned of the Supreme Court decision.

She said they returned of their own volition. "Do you know what it is like to accompany your husband, who is innocent, to willingly come back, knowing he is going back to prison?" she said.

"It is a double nightmare."

Ms Bantleman said what had happened was "inhumane, ridiculous and absurd".

"My husband and Ferdi and the cleaners are victims of cruel and unreliable stories, with no evidence and a million dollar price tag," she said.

(The parents of one of the children said to have been sodomised separately sued the school for $US125 million ($173 million). The action was rejected on a technicality.)

"We are heartbroken."