An Indonesian court decision that sentenced teachers Ferdinand Tjiong and Neil Bantleman to ten years in jail for child abuse has been overturned.
Canadian educator Bantelman and teacher assistant Tjion worked at the Jakarta Intercultural School where they were accused of having perpetrated child abuse.
“Can you imagine, in jail for 13 months without any evidence,” Bantleman’s laywer said confirming that the court overturned the conviction.
“This is totally about justice. This is now back on the clear road, there is no doubt, there was no evidence from the beginning.”
The South Jakarta District Court sentenced them to ten years in jail and a 100 million rupiah ($7,600) fine in April, 2014 for abusing two preschool-aged boys at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) kindergarten.
“We’ll continue to fight and appeal until the truth comes out, and the truth is that Ferdi and I never abused those kids,” Bantleman stated following his conviction verdict.
His wife said at the time of his sentence that the case was a:
“[M]alicious make-believe story with a multi-million-dollar price tag. The decision of the judges to imprison two innocent men, with no evidence at all is truly cruel, inhumane and heartless,” she said.
The controversial case was “fraught with irregularities and put the country’s justice system under the spotlight,“ Reuters reports.
Immediately after the 10-year sentence was announced, Canada called for due process to be followed while the UK highlighted irregularities in case.
The allegations submitted during the original court proceeding referred to magic stones and blue water, while medical evidence confirmed no signs of child abuse, Tom Allard of The Sydney Morning Herald explains.
As the case unfolded, evidence of an elaborate hoax grew as one of the children’s lawyers pressed for civil damages of several million rupiah was detained on corruption charges for an unrelated case.
The caused outrage among the international community due to the lack of transparency during the trial and the lack of compelling evidence.
The case was in the spotlight and closely watched by Jakarta-based international diplomats, many of whom send their children to JIS, which was co-founded by the US, Australian and British embassies.
Hotman Paris Hutapea, the pair’s lawyer, confirmed the release of the innocent men:
“Yes, that’s correct: the ruling is overturned and they must be released from jail immediately.”
The Jakarta Intercultural School was founded in 1951 and has students of sixty different nationalities and educators and other officials of twenty. The international private school was established for the children of expatriates living in Jakarta.