TORONTO — A Canadian teacher convicted in Indonesia on child abuse charges marked the second anniversary of his detention on Thursday as his family called for an impartial review of his case.
Neil Bantleman has maintained his innocence ever since he was accused of abusing three children at an international school in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.
In February this year, Indonesia’s Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s acquittal of Bantleman’s charges and he was put back behind bars with an 11-year sentence after being out of prison while his case was heard.
The 47-year-old has called his case a complete miscarriage of justice and his lawyers are now preparing an application for a judicial review of the matter.
“We are focused on getting Neil out and that will happen, we know that for a fact, it’s just how long that will take,” Bantleman’s brother, Guy Bantleman told The Canadian Press in an interview.
“We’re obviously frustrated that we’ve had to mark a two-year anniversary, but we are pleased that Neil is in good health and he is relatively safe and that we seem to be making some progress.”
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Regular calls with the federal government and Global Affairs Canada for updates on Ottawa’s efforts, and the work being done for his judicial review are all seen as positive developments, Guy Bantleman said.
“They’re all small steps but at least they’re moving in the right direction,” he said, noting that working with the Liberal government after they were elected last fall appears to have made a difference.
“Better access, more proactive nature, more feedback, just taking steps to have this resolved.”
A panel appointed by Indonesia’s Supreme Court will look at Bantleman’s arguments for a judicial review, his brother said. If that avenue eventually fails, Bantleman’s family will shift its focus to petitioning for a presidential pardon and further diplomatic intervention.
“It’s a situation of unsubstantiated accusations with no physical or medical evidence, and a trial that lacked transparency that has really led to this situation. In the Canadian and the U.S. judicial system we wouldn’t even be talking about this,” his brother said. “We will continue to push for a fair and impartial judicial review process.”
The case has dragged through the Indonesian justice system since Bantleman was arrested in July 2014.
He was first convicted and handed a 10 year prison sentence last April and then freed in August when the conviction was overturned.
But Bantleman returned to prison earlier this year when the Indonesian Supreme Court quashed his acquittal and added a year to his sentence.
At the time, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion issued a statement saying the government was “deeply dismayed and shocked” that the acquittal ruling was overturned.
Bantleman’s family has maintained that he was the victim of a corrupt Indonesian justice system.
A demonstration was held outside the Indonesian Consulate in Toronto and a vigil was planned in Calgary for Thursday evening to draw attention to Neil Bantleman’s ordeal.
© 2016 The Canadian Press