Friday, August 15, 2014

Canadian teacher jailed in Indonesia cries for help

A Canadian teacher who has been jailed in Indonesia for more than a month is appealing directly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene on his behalf, saying his case has reached “ a severely critical stage” as he continues to languish behind bars.

Bantleman, 45, a teacher at the Jakarta International School, was arrested during a police investigation into alleged sexual assault of three kindergarten students. The Burlington, Ont., man was detained along with Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong.

In a letter dated Aug. 14 and addressed to Harper, Neil Bantleman said he and his colleague have been “wrongfully accused” of crimes “in which we took no part in.”

Bantleman writes that he believes Harper’s involvement would be “pivotal to resolving the injustice of illegal detainment and false accusations,” and requests that the prime minister contact his Indonesian counterparts to help free the pair and clear their names.

“It is imperative that the Indonesian government officials at the highest levels are made aware of the concerns of my home government and that this case is being monitored closely by the international community,” Bantleman said.

The investigation up to this point “has been marred by incompetence, the inability to follow the rule of law or provide due process,” Bantleman also said.

So far during their 32-day detention, he and Tjiong have been subjected to interrogations and “highly invasive” medical procedures without permission, or legal representation present, Bantleman said, adding that the initial 20 days of detention was extended for another 40 days.

Under Indonesian law, Bantleman can be held for 60 days without charges.

Family members, including Bantleman’s wife Tracy, have been trying to get the Canadian government to intervene on his behalf for weeks.

Last week, Tracy Bantleman said she met with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird during his visit in Jakarta, and said she believes that he is “working at the highest levels” to raise the case with Indonesian authorities.

In Bantleman’s letter to Harper, he acknowledges that the Canadian authorities are “aware of my situation” and are working to resolve the matter.

“While I appreciate the support that has been offered thus far, I still find myself detained, and I am asking for even greater support,” Bantleman said.

The men could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Since Bantleman was placed in custody, candlelight vigils have been held in several Canadian cities as a show of solidarity with the teacher and his family.

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