A Canadian teacher imprisoned in Indonesia since 2014 after being convicted on charges of sexually assaulting students at a school in Jakarta has returned home, CBC News has confirmed.
Neil Bantleman has been back home since the end of June. His family reportedly has requested that media outlets respect his privacy.
Guy Bantleman told CBC News today the experience of hugging his brother after such a long separation was “almost surreal.”
“It’s going to take some time. All of us just spending some time together and … getting reacquainted, I guess,” he said, laughing.
Bantleman was convicted along with Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong in 2014 on charges of sexually assaulting young students at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS), where the children of many expatriates, diplomats and wealthy Indonesians are enrolled.
He and his co-accused were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Bantleman’s conviction was overturned in August 2015. Indonesia’s Supreme Court reinstated his conviction in February 2016 and added another year to his sentence.
Bantleman has maintained his innocence and the Canadian government has been lobbying hard for his release, arguing he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice. An investigation by CBC TV’s The Fifth Estate found that critical pieces of the evidence used to convict were seriously flawed.
Guy Bantleman said his brother took a while to adjust to being back home.
“Obviously, five years of your life, and there’s that readjustment to freedom, which I think he’s doing quite well with and just getting reintegrated with being able to be free and be able to move about and set your own schedule,” he said.
He said his brother’s release was kept quiet for weeks because of its “terms and conditions” — which he would not discuss — “bilateral relations, the operation of the school, all important factors to keep this confidential as long as possible.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland brought up Bantleman’s case on multiple occasions with Indonesian officials, sources say.
A year ago, a source with direct knowledge of Bantleman’s case told CBC News the Canadian government saw a window of opportunity opening to secure his release, but it might have to wait until after spring elections because of the controversy surrounding the case and the potential for blowback from Indonesians still convinced of his guilt.
Last October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Bantleman’s family in Burlington, Ont. and said his government had been working with Indonesian officials to obtain a “positive outcome” in his case.