US envoy dismayed by guilty verdict for teachers in sex abuse case

The United States ambassador to Indonesia criticized  the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the acquittal of a Canadian administrator and a local colleague accused of sexually abusing pupils at the Jakarta International School and increase their jail terms.

The Jakarta High Court in August quashed the 10-year sentences given to Neil Bantleman, an administrator at the prestigious school, and teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong by a lower court for sexually assaulting kindergarten pupils.

But a panel of Supreme Court judges reinstated the original verdicts and increased the jail terms to 11 years, the court’s spokesman Suhadi said.

“The verdict of the court of the first instance was correct and was based on sufficient evidence,” said Suhadi. The decision was made on Wednesday, he said.

U.S. ambassador to Indonesia Robert O Blake said “we are shocked and disappointed by the decision.”

“The international community continues to closely follow this case,” he said. “The outcome of the legal process will impact international views about the rule of law in Indonesia.”

The US government is a founding partner of the school, which is attended by children of diplomats, expatriates and members of the Indonesian political and business elites. 

Chandra Saptadji, a spokesman for the South Jakarta prosecutor’s office, said Tjiong was picked up early Thursday to serve his sentence, while Bantleman had yet to be found.

“His house was empty,” Chandra said. “We are asking him to be cooperative.”

The parents of at least three kindergarten pupils at the private school, since renamed the Jakarta Intercultural School, came forward in 2014 with allegations of sexual abuse by members of the school’s staff.

Bantleman and Tjiong have consistently denied the allegations.

Their lawyers argued that the medical evidence presented by the children’s parents was fabricated and money was the motive.

A 125-million-dollar lawsuit filed by the parents against the school was thrown out by a Jakarta court last year.

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