Justice For The Innocent - JIS Teachers Released From Prison

4 months is a long time in Indonesia. In April this year, the world’s of the Bantleman’s and Tijong’s – and all those concerned – were set, if unprepared, for an undeserved 10 year separation.

The sentence was all the more painful, as the case brought against Neil and Ferdi had all the legal legitimacy of the Salem Witch Trials. Honesty in the prosecution was more glaringly absent than an Indonesian meal without rice.

But when the truth is imprisoned by the flimsy walls of injustice, it will eventually, inevitably, find no other recourse than to stage a jailbreak.

And that is exactly what has happened. After 14 solemn months of fleeting and supervised embraces, Neil Bantleman and Ferdi Tijong have finally been reunited with their loved ones.

“The truth has finally come out,” announced an overwhelmed Neil Bantleman upon his release from an East Jakarta prison.

The court ruling came after the defamation case in Singapore was thrown out, due to a lack of evidence that any wrong doing took place. Hotman Paris Hutapea, the well known lawyer of the defendants, reckons it had a huge impact:

“The previous verdict has been overturned by the Jakarta high court because there was no evidence of sodomy.” 

But it was the reasoned and meticulous procedure of the Indonesian appeals court, perhaps now shaded from the fiery gaze of the media, that arrived at the verdict that was clear all along: Innocent.

It was the other side of the bars, however, where the war was waged for their release. Tireless staff, parents, and concerned patrons of the international community supported a determined Tracy and Sisca in the struggle for justice. It was their combined efforts for over a year that lead to the tear-jerking scenes at the JIS fountain, the arena where vigils have been religiously held every Friday for the formerly incarcerated.  

Once assembled, the JIS community, only more deeply unified by the events, gave their greatest "Naga Cheer" (the school’s chant) in its history.

The heartfelt congratulations have been flooding in from across the globe.

Although obviously a personal triumph for the families involved, the victory for the Indonesian justice system cannot be understated. An infamously rigid and polluted judicial system, it always had the ability to arrive at the wrong conclusion, and be too stubborn to overturn its error. But the courts ultimately showed political and legal maturity, proving many pessimistic doubters wrong.

US Ambassador Robert O. Blake released a statement:

“The United States welcomes the decision of the Jakarta High Court to acquit the two Jakarta Intercultural School teachers Neil Bantleman and Ferdinand Tjiong. The rule of law and an independent judiciary are vital components of any democratic system, and we appreciate the fairness and prudence shown by Jakarta’s appeals court.”

If only this was the final chapter in the saga. 5 cleaners still remain behind bars with equally lacking evidence to support their imprisonment.

The jury is still out on wether the full extent of the law can be applied to Indonesian nationals as finely as it has been for high-profile expats. The further benefit of Neil and Ferdi’s freedom is that the tenacious activists at JIS can now turn their full attention to the cleaners – whom they are just as dedicated in seeing released.

The roller-coaster ride has been a testament to the pursuit of overturning the seemingly impossible. The Goliath of injustice will stumble if the David’s of the world are resolute and unified in their pursuit of truth.

Indeed, in a previous interview, Tracy poetically stated why so many people across the world came so vociferously to the aid of men they didn’t know. In her words, concerned people will always,

“continue to stand for human rights, in all aspects of their life. Because this is, at the core, a human rights issue.”

Neil and Tracy have put a ban on media communication, and can’t be reached for comment. Though we wouldn’t for the world want to interrupt their reunification anyway :)