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Neil Bantleman, Canadian teacher, in Indonesia court for start of sex assault trial

12/23/2014 09:14 EST | Updated 02/22/2015 05:59 EST
Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman is in an Indonesian court today for the first major day of arguments in his high-profile sexual assault case.

The Burlington, Ont., man, who had also worked as a teacher in Calgary, faces allegations that he sexually assaulted a six-year-old boy and two other kindergarten-age children at the Jakarta International School where he worked. Teaching assistant Ferdinand Tijong is also on trial for the same charges. 

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According to Guy Bantleman, Neil's brother, the trial began overnight Hamilton time, with the boy testifying. Neil Bantleman was kept out of the court as the boy spoke. However, he was allowed to return as the child's mother addressed the court. 

Guy Bantleman told CBC Radio's Metro Morning that the case largely hinges on whether the court believes the child, as there's no hard medical evidence to back the allegations. 

"It doesn't make any sense. There's nothing that pulls the allegations together," Guy Bantleman said. 

Neil Bantleman had asked that the case be thrown out, but the court denied his application. The trial is expected to take up to three months.

Bantleman, who remains employed and backed by Jakarta International School administrators, has been detained since mid-July. 

Janitors sentenced

Monday's sentencing of five janitors from the school doesn't bode well for Bantleman's case, his brother said.

The four men and one woman were given sentences of up to eight years in prison after they were found guilty of sexual assault on the same six-year-old boy. 

The only woman involved in the case received seven years for being an accomplice.

​The janitors were arrested in April and went to trial before Bantleman, in almost a preview of the case against the Canadian teacher. 

Lawyers for the janitors argued in court that the evidence was weak, noting medical reports found the boy had no major injuries or abnormalities. They also complained that confessions given by the janitors were obtained through police torture, and were later recanted.

Prosecutors said the boy had been sodomized up to 13 times.

"The verdicts were unfair," said Patra M. Zen, one of the lawyers, who is also representing Bantleman and Tijong. "We will appeal, and hopefully we will get justice from the higher courts."

The Jakarta International School is attended by children of foreign diplomats, expatriates and Indonesia's elite. It has 2,400 students aged three to 18 from about 60 countries.

The Canadian government has been repeatedly asked to intervene, but has declined.

The government said it's providing consular assistance to Neil Bantleman. 

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