A scandal has ripped through the international community in Indonesia. 2 teachers and 6 cleaners have been accused of child abuse at JIS, Jakarta's largest international school. But how much of the truth is public knowledge?
Neil Bantleman has worked as the Administration Learning Leader since 2010, while Ferdinand Tjiong has been a teaching assistant for 17 years.
The allegations arose against the cleaners on the 21st of March last year, then the teachers 5th June. After the teachers were implicated, the lawsuit filed against the school increased from USD $12.5 million to USD $125 million.
Since the allegations, 2 more victims have been named on the police report. As of the 3rd February 2015, the prosecution concluded its examination, and now begins the defense’s turn to present their case.
There is one crucial fact that is the inescapable raison det’re of this article; Neil Bantelman and Ferdi Tijong are clearly innocent.
Here are 30 facts that shed light on their fictitious accusations, mishandled investigation and baseless incarceration:
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1) Behind Closed Doors
Because of the nature of the case, the trial has been conducted behind closed doors to protect the children. Not even family is allowed to watch proceedings. In addition, there has been a tightened grip on the leaking of information from the courthouse to the press. This censorship, however, is legally unfounded.
2) There is no evidence to prove sodomy ever took place.
3) Race against time
The trial has an arbitrary time limit of 150 days from the indictment, taking place every tuesday and thursday mornings at Pengadilan Negeri Jakarta Selatan. Thanks to expert time-wasting from the prosecution, the defense will only be allowed two months to present their case, which will likely conclude around 17th of April 2015. The defense will be allowed an appeal following an unfavourable verdict.
4) The Allegations have changed wildly as their implausibility has become apparent.
5) Implausible Locations
Abuse is alleged to have occurred repeatedly in several locations including a toilet in the busiest part of school, and an administration area on the elementary school campus where all rooms have glass walls. A curious arena for sexual abuse, even for the most voyeuristic of perpetrators.
6) Time frame
The incidents are said to have taken place somewhere between 2013-2014; it’s been difficult to form an alibi when not one specific date has been provided.
7) Police Investigation flawed
The police investigation fell short of accepted standards of interviewing minors. No forensic examination of crime scene was conducted.
8) C.S.I Jakarta
Police let mother lead crime reconstruction, with indications that victims one and two were coached by their mothers.
9) In The Dark
In a grossly kafkaesque manner, Neil and Ferdi were detained without without evidence and charge. Only an hour after the US and Canadian embassy representatives left the interrogation room, with the promise the men would only be held 24 hours for further questioning, Neil and Ferdi were detained at the police station for another 20 days, without access to legal representation.
10) Police Medical
During a police medical, the men underwent extremely invasive medical procedures against their will.
11) Lie Detector
They have undergone lie detector tests in which the lawyers present could only view proceedings on a television monitor, without audio... like watching a silent movie without subtitles.
12) And The Others?
It’s not only Neil and Ferdi who were originally accused. Security guards, PT ISS cleaners and other JIS faculty members were said to have “assisted” but are off free - and rightly so. Though they haven’t appeared in court, their names are referenced by the parents in police dossiers.
13) No credible evidence
The police dossier was sent back to the authorities on 3 separate occasions. It was only days before the end of the initial 120 day holding period, 3rd November, when there was no Attorney General (only an acting Attorney General) that it was accepted.
[Trial and Errors]
It has proved impossible to find actual witnesses for a fictitious event. Surely, if we are to believe the admin office, that transparent amphitheater of alleged abuse, was indeed the scene of the crime during school hours - SOMEBODY must have seen it, right?
15) Child's Testimony
A child’s testimony shouldn’t be used as evidence in such a trial, only for general orientation - but was in the cleaner’s case.
16) Police Interviews
Police interviewed staff at the school, but not those who were actually working with the accused. Neil and Ferdi have asked that their immediate colleagues be questioned but to no avail.
The court allowed 6 hour-long monologues for the mother's testimony. Because this has eaten into so much time, only an hour allocation for each further cross-examination has been granted, in the lead up to the defense presenting their case.
18) Tweedledee & Tweedledum
The two boys of varying sizes had identical biometrics according to the police medical report. Same respiratory rate, same blood pressure and same body temperature... copy paste, anyone?
Hotman Paris, considered the most high-profile and competent lawyer in the land, is leading the defense team. Pragmatism on their part has been important, because the defense did not know until the day who would turn up to support the oppositions case. This made forming a defense very challenging.
20) Language Barrier
Neil speaks a little Bahasa - not enough to follow the complexities of judicial proceedings, despite a translator.
21) Magic Stone
Perhaps the most bizarre allegation used in court since the Salem Witch Trials, Neil is accused of plucking a “Magic Stone” out of the air and using it to anesthetize the kids in his apparently supernatural administration prism. Neil has no previous affiliation with Hogwarts.
To be convicted of a crime in a rational judicial process because of such paranormal malarkey is nothing short of a human rights abuse. Hotman put it best: “If there is a magic stone like that, I want to develop a new business.”
22) Skull Tattoo?
According to two of the victims, the perpetrators had a tattoo of a skull on their arm and back. Fittingly for respected educators, Neil and Ferdi have no such markings. Neither do any of the cleaners.
23) Inconclusive Examination
Dr Lutfi of Pondok Indah hospital conducted the third medical examination of the first child, and stated that there was not enough evidence to suggest sodomy ever took place. The mother rejected the suggestion of a full medical examination.
Upon finding pus, Dr. Lufti prescribed anti-inflammatories for a bacterial infection. Herpes is a viral infection. The first medical examination was carried out on the boy at SOS on March 22nd 2014. Dr. Narain testified in the cleaners’ case that the boy looked fine and a later blood test for Herpes was inconclusive.
Prosecution Experts - To Call Them “Experts” Is Like Calling Miley Cyrus A Musical Genius. For example...
Meet Naek L. Tobing. He was the “expert” Sexologist brought in by police to determine whether Neil and Ferdi had “pedophiliac tendencies.” Though this is not his specialty, as his main focus is the correlation between rising obesity and the micro-penis epidemic in Indonesian men. His website is not for the faint hearted.
To make matters more suspicious, he wrote an article 24 hours after the first allegations arose March, then was used by police to interview the accused. Now that’s some micro-impartiality...
25) Foreign Intervention
Although foreign pressure is small (with Embassies biding their time and Boris Johnson coming over without giving one word of support), it is not completely intangible. Embassies have shown some support, including the US ambassador rightly stating that it could adversely affect foreign investment in, and opinions of Indonesia.
26) The Vanguard
In support of Bantleman and Tijong, there has been a team of JIS mothers, fathers and teachers who have provided unwavering dedication to the cause and have taken direct, affirmative action.
Every friday at JIS by the fountain, around the now iconic poster showing the number of days spent in prison (displaying 3 digits too many), people from every nook and cranny of Indonesia’s international community, past and present, come together to show their support for the innocent.
28) The Community
Beyond the vanguard, there are parents, students (current and former) across the international community, whose activist nerve has been pinched by this blatant injustice.
29) International Neighbourhood
Overseas, the international support from Canada, particularly in Neil’s hometown of Burlington, and former school he was employed at in Calgary for ten years, and indeed the grateful support from International Schools across the region have provided indispensable pressure from outside.
The ongoing solidarity and action, whether it’s supporting at the court and vigils, or writing and sharing articles has been so important, not only to show the accused that the fight continues for their release, but keeping the case prominent in the public consciousness.
Even if we are to suspend our disbelief and consider that two highly respected teachers, in collusion with unaffiliated cleaners, aided by Rasputin levels of mysticism, pulled off a fantastical pedophile conspiracy inside one of the most highly securitized schooling institutions in the world, utilizing a public aquarium-like office, over the course of 2 years - the flawed conduct of the investigation and prosecution has made a mockery of a sham.
For over 200 days, innocent men have experienced the unwarranted separation from their family and loved ones. What we can do with our contrastingly boundless freedom to help is almost limitless.
The least we can do is stay informed.
For it is the power of knowledge that will set them free. Indeed, the truth has always been their greatest hope for justice.