Police officers investigated in case of Canadian teacher convicted in Indonesia

TORONTO — The family of a Canadian teacher imprisoned in Indonesia on widely criticized child-abuse convictions says the police officers who handled the controversial case are now under investigation.

But Neil Bantleman’s brother said it’s hard to say what might come of the probe by the National Police Commission, noting that the case has been plagued with problems from the start.

“My personal thought is that they’re just doing it as a perfunctory type of review and I don’t know if it’s going to show much difference in what we’ve seen so far,” Guy Bantleman said in an interview on Thursday.

“The oversight of all the law officials, the judiciary, it’s kind of managed within itself, so at some point you start to get a little concerned that there’s no real independent body making this review.”

Indonesian media reported that public inquiries about alleged irregularities by law enforcers in the case had sparked the commission’s investigation.

Neil Bantleman’s family has repeatedly called the case against the 46-year-old Burlington, Ont., teacher a mind-boggling one.

Bantleman and a teaching assistant were both working at the elite Jakarta Intercultural School when they were arrested last July following reports from parents of a six-year-old boy who claimed to have been sodomized. Police had already arrested five janitors who worked at the school on charges of child sexual assault in relation to the case.

Bantleman and the teaching assistant, Ferdinant Tjiong, were then charged with sexually abusing three children at the school, underwent a trial that saw conflicting evidence, and were eventually convicted in April, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Both men maintained their innocence throughout and frequently voiced criticisms about the fairness and transparency of the trial which saw medical reports from three different hospitals in Jakarta and Singapore show no major injuries or abnormalities in the three children at the centre of the case.

Bantleman even wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper after being found guilty, saying the process used to convict him was corrupt and amounted to a human rights violation.

An appeal has been filed in the case.

Bantleman’s brother said, however, that the outcome of the appeal would likely still lead to more legal action.

“There are three outcomes — either dismissal of the case, a retrial or they uphold the verdict,” he explained. “If they dismiss or retry, the prosecutor would provably appeal that, if they uphold it obviously we’re going to appeal the upholding of the verdict.”

As Bantleman waits for a decision on his appeal, being imprisoned is starting to take a toll, his brother said.

“Before, things were happening all the time. It was always something going on and now it’s more of a waiting game,” his brother said.

Bantleman and his family have asked the federal government to review the case and speak up on the Ontario man’s behalf, but his brother said nothing appears to have come from that call.

While the Canadian Embassy staff in Jakarta have been helpful in ensuring Bantleman is treated well in prison, action from Ottawa has yet to be seen, he said.

“They talk about meetings that go on at higher levels between two governments, but they’re not very forthcoming in what they’re doing and that is concerning,” he said. “I think there has to be a level of disclosure to the family.”

The federal government has called on Indonesia to ensure the appeal is conducted in a “air and transparent manner” and says it continues to monitor Bantleman’s health and safety.

Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press

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