Neil Bantleman surrenders to Indonesian authorities

Canadian schoolteacher Neil Bantleman has turned himself in to Indonesian custody, after the country’s supreme court overturned his acquittal on charges that he and an Indonesian teacher allegedly abused three children.

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Neil Bantleman and Ferdinant Tjiong had been sentenced to 10 years in prison last April. Both appealed to the country's High Court which acquitted them in August.

The pair had their acquittal overturned on Wednesday.

Chandra Saptaji, head of the general crime section at the South Jakarta Prosecutors' Office, said Bantleman, who was in Bali, surrendered after communicating with authorities through the Canadian Embassy.

"I can say that he was co-operative," Saptaji told The Associated Press. "He took the initiative by flying back to Jakarta escorted by officials from the embassy and the prosecutors' office.

Bantleman was admitted to Cipinang Prison, the same prison in Jakarta where Tjiong was taken into custody on Thursday.

The reversal has stunned Bantleman's family members.

Guy Bantleman, Neil's brother, said Thursday morning that heading into the verdict the family felt confident in the outcome but the new decision has placed more stress on them.

"They're both tired, they both thought that we're very close to the end of this process and they'd be back in Canada in the coming weeks," he told CTV News Channel on Thursday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said in a statement Thursday morning that the Canadian government is "deeply dismayed and shocked" by the Supreme Court's decision.

“This decision is unjust, given the many grave irregularities throughout the various proceedings in this case and the fact that all evidence presented by the defence has systematically been rejected. Mr. Bantleman and Mr. Tjiong were not provided the opportunity to demonstrate their innocence," Dion said. "Despite Canada’s repeated calls for due process, this case was not handled in a fair and transparent manner."

Dion said the outcome of the case has "serious implications" for Indonesia's reputation as a safe place for Canadians to work and travel.

He added that Canada would continue to raise Bantleman’s case at the highest levels while Canadian officials provide him with consular assistance.

Under Indonesian law, both Bantleman and Tijong still could challenge the sentence by filing for judicial review by the Supreme Court if they have new evidence.

Both Bantleman and Tijong worked at the Jakarta International School, which is now called the Jakarta Intercultural School.

The 2,400 students in the school include children of foreign diplomats and expatriates from about 60 countries along with Indonesia's elite.

The school's principal and a number of other teachers have said they believe Bantleman is innocent.

Last December, five janitors at the school who were arrested in the same case were sentenced to up to eight years in jail. Police said a sixth suspect in that group died of suicide.

With files from the Associated Press



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