Neil Bantleman, the Canadian man detained in Indonesia after being swept up in a high-profile child sexual assault investigation, has written a second letter to the Canadian government calling for support as he waits for pending charges and faces the prospect of a trial.
Bantleman, a learning coordinator at the Jakarta International School, was arrested earlier this year in connection with allegations that several kindergarten students at the school were sexually assaulted.
The 45-year-old teacher, who is from Burlington, Ont., and also taught in Calgary, has been held in a Jakarta jail since July 14 but hasn't been charged with any crime.
On Wednesday, however, the Office of the Attorney General in Indonesia announced that Bantleman's case has been accepted for trial. Charges are expected next week, according to his brother Guy Bantleman, who released Bantleman's letter.
The latest development also means that Bantleman will be moved to the Cipinang Penitentiary for the pre-trial period, which is expected to last three to four months. Guy Bantleman said the facility is far more dangerous for inmates than the location where his brother is currently being detained.
"No further 'evidence' had been collected and additional requirements never completed, yet the file has been accepted [for trial]," said Bantleman in a letter written the day after the announcement, calling the latest development "highly suspect."
He added that the Office of the Attorney General can still review his file and make a decision to refrain from proceeding to trial, so he is asking the Canadian government to take diplomatic actions to ensure the case does not move forward to trial.
Bantleman's first letter to the Canadian government was a handwritten note he sent from jail to the Prime Minister's Office in August, a month after he was detained. He pointed out issues that he believed violated his human rights and requested the government's assistance.
"Since this time, the circumstances of my case have become dire and the time for action on the part of the Canadian government is now," he wrote in Thursday's letter.
"I reach out to you in desperation as only government intervention will save me from a fate which I do not deserve."
Bantleman's arrest stems from an investigation by Jakarta police into sexual assault at the school earlier this year. The Jakarta Post newspaper reported that six janitors were arrested for allegedly raping a young boy in a school bathroom in March.
Later, the parents of two other students filed police reports claiming their sons were sexually assaulted by teachers. The newspaper also reported that one complainant, whose family is suing the school for $125 million, implicated teachers at the school.
In July, Bantleman and Ferdinand Tjiong, an Indonesian teaching assistant, were detained and questioned by police for nine hours. They were never released.
Since then, Bantleman's detention has been extended multiple times.
Guy Bantleman said his brother had hoped that he would be released after 120 days, the maximum time allowed under Indonesian law before charges must be laid. But now, more than 100 days into the detention, charges are pending and release seems unlikely.
"The 120 days provided a light at the end of the tunnel. That doesn't exist anymore," Guy Bantleman told CBC News.
Bantleman’s family and school officials have both criticized the investigation, saying authorities lack any evidence. The family has also called on the Canadian government to do more to free him.
Minister responds to family pleas
In a letter to Guy Bantleman on Friday, Minister of State Lynne Yelich, who is responsible for consular affairs, said her staff are aware of the Office of the Attorney General's announcement.
"My officials are actively gathering additional information regarding the latest developments so we can have a better understanding of what this decision means for your brother’s case.
"Canadian officials will continue to work diligently with the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Indonesian Embassy to Canada in seeking to ensure Neil receives an equitable, transparent and timely judicial process, and that consular officials continue to have regular access to your brother."
Guy Bantleman said, however, that he is disappointed by the response and calls the Canadian government's actions ineffective.
Guy Bantleman said his brother faces several months behind bars.
Full text of Neil Bantleman's letter to the Canadian government
Letter to Canadian government - Dear Honorable Prime Minister Harper,
I am writing as a follow up to a letter I sent to you August 14th. Since this time, the circumstances of my case have become dire and the time for action on the part of the Canadian government is now. The office of the Attorney General announced Wednesday, October 29th that they would be accepting my case for trial after rejecting the file on three previous occasions. No further "evidence" had been collected and additional requirements never completed, yet the file has been accepted. These developments are highly suspect and cause concerns about corruption and collusion between the prosecutors office and the police to move this case forward abandoning all considerations of proper legal protocol and procedures.
It is my understanding that there is a legal precedence whereby the Attorney General’s office can still review the file and make a decision to refrain from proceeding to trial. I am asking the Canadian Government to use all its power to take immediate diplomatic action at the highest levels, where political influence is expected to have its greatest effect, to ensure the case does not move forward to trial. This is a critical time as a new government has been sworn in and a new Attorney General is to be appointed within days. The selection of this attorney general is charged with the responsibility of eradicating corruption and eliminating injustice. I have been informed that the founding embassies of JIS, the US Embassy, Australian Embassy and British Embassy, are planning to meet the new Attorney General within days of his/her appointment to lobby for the case to be thrown out. I expect the Canadian Embassy will be present as well. In addition to this lobbying, I am requesting that Ottawa reach out to this newly appointed government at the highest levels to make your concerns known.
Although I am relieved to know that status of the US female individual (JIS Elementary Principal) remains that of a witness, it is difficult to accept that she has avoided being named a suspect. It is apparent that she has been afforded greater protection as an American citizen and I feel it is unacceptable that Canada has not made a greater effort to protect and stand up for an innocent Canadian citizen.
As each day passes and circumstances continue to deteriorate I am pleading for your assistance to intervene and act on my behalf. I have been wrongly accused, taken away from my family and denied my human rights. My resolve is beginning to wane and my hope diminishing. I reach out to you in desperation as only government intervention will save me from a fate which I do not deserve.