National News

Wife pleads for release of Canadian teacher detained in Jakarta

By Clare Clancy, The Canadian Press

The wife of a Canadian teacher detained in Indonesia on allegations of child sexual assault is pleading for her husband's release.

Neil Bantleman, 45, who worked at the prestigious Jakarta International School, was arrested last week during a police investigation into the alleged sexual assault of three kindergarten students.

His wife, Tracy Bantleman, who also teaches at the school, said the week since her husband's arrest has been a "horrific nightmare."

"He is using every ounce of energy he has to keep it together," she said in a phone interview from Jakarta.

Tracy Bantleman, 42, said the prison conditions are "reasonable," and include a clean cell area with a mattress on the floor.

"Physically, he's not looking as strong as I've seen him look before," she said.

"The first thing he says to me is 'I love you, I love you, I love you,' " she said, breaking down crying. "It's so hard to hear your husband cry."

Local media reported that the police investigation began with the arrest of six outsourced cleaners accused of allegedly raping a young boy in a school bathroom in March. The Jakarta Post reported that the parents of two other students filed police reports claiming their sons were sexually assaulted by teachers.

Neil Bantleman was detained along with teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong, who is Indonesian. They both have denied the allegations.

Tracy Bantleman said the two men, who she described as "absolutely the gold standard for teachers across the world," are together in prison.

"I'm trying to put my full trust in the legal system here, and respect and honour that and hope that they will fairly and transparently investigate the case," she said.

Neil Bantleman's brother, Guy, is heading efforts in Canada to raise awareness about the case. Speaking from his home in Burlington, Ont., he said that he has been in touch with the office of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

"This is about human rights," Guy Bantleman said. "(My brother) has always been the most honourable person you could meet."

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development said details on the case are not being released for privacy reasons.

"Canadian consular officials are providing assistance to a Canadian citizen who has been detained in Indonesia," John Babcock said in an email.

Last week, the three founding embassies of the Jakarta International School issued a joint statement that said Australian, British and American officials are "deeply concerned about the detention of several JIS teachers."

"We believe JIS and its teachers have closely co-operated with police authorities, and we are surprised at these developments given the presumption of innocence in Indonesian law," the statement read.

The teachers, who are being represented by Indonesian attorney Hotman Paris Hutapea, were brought into the police station for questioning on July 14 and then detained in the early hours the next morning.

Hutapea told the Jakarta Post that the police "stepped over the line" by detaining his clients without evidence.

The newspaper reported that police claim to have proof the two teachers drugged kindergarten pupils before sexually assaulting them. Both Bantleman and Tjiong could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Tracy Bantleman said before moving to Indonesia four years ago, she and her husband worked at private schools in Calgary and at the Canadian International School in Singapore.

"This kind of allegation as a teacher is the most damaging allegation for your career," she said. "But more importantly, it really impacts who you think you are as a person. That will never go away."

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