Canadian school administrator Neil Bantleman sits in a court detention cell in Jakarta shortly before a court appearance to face a verdict in this April 2, 2015, file photo. (Photo by Bay Ismoyo/AFP)
Victims' families have condemned Indonesian President Joko Widodo for granting clemency to a Canadian teacher serving a jail term for sexually assaulting students at a school in Jakarta. Neil Bantleman was released and deported last month, according to media reports. News of his release was revealed last week after he spoke to the media. The Indonesian government confirmed he was freed on June 21, drawing an angry response from the victims’ families. “Through this clemency, Bantleman has escaped responsibility for his crimes,” their lawyer Tommy Sihotang said. "They’ve asked me to send a letter of protest to Widodo." He said he would also demand that the president ensures that compensation claims lodged in court by the families are not ignored.
Bantleman and Indonesian colleague Ferdinand Tjiong were jailed for 10 years in 2015 after being found guilty of sexually assaulting three boys. They were later acquitted by High Court but were jailed again when the Supreme Court overturned the acquittal and increased their sentence by a year. Six school janitors
were also charged, of whom five were jailed for between 7-8 years while the other allegedly committed suicide while in custody. Bantleman and Tjiong have always maintained their innocence. "Five years ago, I was wrongly accused and convicted of a crime I did not commit and furthermore never occurred," Bantleman said in a statement to the media last week. He also said he was grateful to the Indonesian government for granting him clemency. Bonifasius Gunung, executive director of the Indonesian Legal Transformation Institute, said Widodo should explain why clemency was granted "given that sexual violence
is a serious crime which should not be tolerated.” “It is also important so as not to give the impression that our country underestimates such crimes," he said.
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