NEWS

Neil Bantleman more hopeful after inconsistent testimonies, wife says

12/30/2014 07:42 EST | Updated 03/01/2015 05:59 EST
Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman is hopeful he will be declared innocent of sexually assaulting children in Indonesia, his wife told CBC News after the latest session of his trial wrapped today.

"He is quite fearful of the outcome of the trial, but he is feeling a little better today," Tracy Bantleman said from Indonesia. 

Bantleman, the Burlington, Ont., native who also appeared in court last week, is accused of sexually assaulting three students while working at the Jakarta International School. 

- How lawyers plan to defend teacher facing child sex charges 

One of the boys involved in the alleged accusations and his mother testified via video conference on Tuesday. The child's father testified in court. 

"The child seemed to be looking to his mother throughout the testimony and looking to his mother for confirmation to his response," Tracy Bantleman said, based on information from her husband.

Accusers' stories are inconsistent, wife says

The boy's testimony was inconsistent and illogical, according to Tracy Bantleman. She says the location of the alleged assault changed in the boy's various testimonies, and that he testified his alleged attacker had a skeleton tattoo, but Bantleman does not have one.  

Tracy Bantleman believes this could be a case of child abuse hysteria, or improper or suggestive questioning of these children throughout the investigation.. 

"The children are changing their stories, and the father has been confrontational and won't answer questions directly," she said after Tuesday's testimonies.  

Neil Bantleman’s wife is also urging the Canadian government to change its tactics and do more for her husband.

Five janitors at the same school have already been sentenced to lengthy jail terms in a similar sexual assault trial involving one of the same victims — a six-year-old boy.

"It is time for the Canadian government to issue a statement of concern," Tracy Bantleman wrote in a letter to the government on Sunday.

"He is innocent, and the Canadian government approach should reflect that fact."

The Canadian government didn’t issue an immediate response.

Her remarks come on the heels of a powerful statement from the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, Robert Blake, that was critical of the trial.

"The outcome of these cases and what it reveals about the rule of law in Indonesia will have a significant impact on Indonesia’s reputation abroad," Blake said in a statement to CBC Hamilton.

Tracy Bantleman points out, in her letter, that her husband has been given vocal support from the U.K. and Australian governments as well. Guy Bantleman, Neil’s brother, said all three governments issued vocal support back in July, when Neil was first arrested.

Canadian approach has not 'created any positive change'

The Jakarta International School is attended by around 2,400 students, many of them children of foreign diplomats, expatriates and Indonesia's elite. Prior to working in Indonesia, Bantleman was a teacher at Webber Academy in Calgary for 10 years.

The Canadian government has said it’s providing consular assistance to the Bantlemans while they are in Indonesia, but it has declined to state a firm position on the court case.

"I would like to respectfully request that the Canadian government issue a statement in support of my husband," Tracy Bantleman wrote.

"While I understand that the behind-the-scenes approach the Canadian Embassy is taking is perhaps the embassy policy, the rather more robust approach of the aforementioned U.S, Australian and British embassies seems to be garnering more attention."

That "robust" approach, Tracy Bantleman said, makes a difference. She said a British ambassador was able to sit in on trial proceedings while Canadian officials were shut out. According to Guy Bantleman, no reporters or foreign officials are supposed to be allowed in the courtroom during sexual assault trials involving minors.

"Certainly, their approach provided more comfort to those of us who are at the centre of this injustice," she wrote.

"My concern is that the approach that is being taken has not created any positive change in Neil’s status."

She said the Canadian government has assured her that it continues to meet with its counterparts in Indonesia, and embassy officials have highlighted irregularities with the case and called for a fair trial. 

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