JAKARTA (Reuters) - A Canadian teacher was sentenced to 10 years in jail in Indonesia on Thursday for sexually abusing kindergarten boys at a prestigious international Jakarta school, in a controversial case that has put the country’s judicial system under scrutiny.
The verdict against Neil Bantleman came after a four-month trial that critics say was fraught with irregularities, raising foreign investors’ concerns about legal certainty in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
He and Indonesian national Ferdinand Tjiong were accused of abusing three pupils of the Jakarta Intercultural School, who were about five years old at the time. All of the boys were from expatriate families.
The court did not give a verdict on Tjiong on Thursday.
The court sentenced Bantleman to serve 10 years in prison and pay a fine of 100 million rupiah (5,551 pounds).
In December five of the school’s janitors were sentenced to up to eight years in jail for raping one of the boys.
The children of many expatriates and diplomats living in the Indonesia capital attend the U.S. embassy-backed school, which was until recently called the Jakarta International School.
“There is no reason to forgive the defendant,” Presiding Judge Nur Aslam said. “The defendant should be found guilty.”
Bantleman said in a statement that he planned to appeal against the verdict, at which a loud cheer went up in the packed Jakarta courtroom.
“This is a complete miscarriage of justice,” he said. “We’ll continue to fight and appeal until the truth comes out, and the truth is that Ferdi and I never abused those kids.”
The lawyers of the two defendants had argued that the investigation and testimony from the victims were flawed, according to local media.
Circumstances surrounding the trial, including a court order preventing either side from speaking to media, have prompted questions about the transparency of the legal process.
“We are very concerned about the impact of this proceeding on the rule of law and legal certainty,” said Lin Neumann, managing director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Jakarta, before the verdict. “Foreign investors, Americans in particular, have been watching very carefully,” he said.
Indonesia’s judicial system is seen as among the least credible and most corrupt institutions in the country, according to Transparency International.
Reporting by Fergus Jensen and Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Randy Fabi and Simon Cameron-Moore