JIS child sexual abuse saga ends with guilty verdict
The Jakarta Post
A trial on the sexual abuse of three kindergartners at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) came to a conclusion on Thursday at the South Jakarta District Court when the panel of judges declared a Canadian teacher and an Indonesian teacher's assistant of the prestigious school guilty and sentenced them each to 10 years' imprisonment.
Presiding judge Nuraslam Bustaman said during the reading of the verdict that the facts revealed in the court showed that Canadian Neil Bantleman and Indonesian Ferdinant Tjiong had repeatedly abused the boys between January 2013 and March 2014.
When passing judgment on Bantleman, the judge said: 'Considering all evidence presented and every fact revealed before the court, we conclude that the defendant knowingly committed violence, or threats of violence to sexually abuse a child,' Nuraslam said.
The judges also fined Bantleman and Ferdinant Rp100 million (US$7,695). The prosecution had sought a 12-year term.
In an eight-hour hearing, the judges accepted the testimony of one psychologist who said that a 'magic stone' had been inserted into anus of a boy so that he would feel no pain when being molested by Bantleman.
The so-called magic stone was never presented by the police or prosecutors as evidence, nor were Bantleman or Ferdinant ever shown it.
The judges dismissed the entire defense statement submitted by the defendants and their legal team, including a medical report issued by a hospital in Singapore in May 2014 stating that there were no signs of sexual assault present in one victim who was examined. The report was certified by the High Court of Singapore in February 2015.
'We disclaim the medical report as well as the Singapore court document because we have no obligation to accept a court ruling issued by another country that is related to a case we examine,' Nuraslam said.
Shortly after the reading of the verdict, Bantleman's lawyer Hotman Paris Hutapea, declared that his client would appeal against the verdict.
Tjiong also said he would appeal the verdict.
The case broke at the school -- formerly known as the Jakarta International School -- in April last year with accusations that cleaning staff had abused a pupil that was quickly followed by claims of abuse by other parents.
But horror at the alleged abuse quickly transformed into concern at what supporters say was an unfair attempt to target Bantleman and Tjiong by Indonesia's notoriously corrupt police and judicial system.
The case sparked deep unease among the expatriate community and foreign governments alike.
Following the verdict, US Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Blake said there were serious questions about "the investigative process and lack of credible evidence against the teachers", AFP reported.
"We are deeply disappointed with this outcome ... The broad international community is following this case closely. The outcome of the legal process and what it reveals about the rule of law in Indonesia will have a significant impact on Indonesia's reputation abroad."
The British Embassy in Jakarta said in a statement that there were "concerns about irregularities in this case", nothing that its consular staff were prevented from attending the trial.
Canadian Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson said that Canada had "called for a fair and transparent trial throughout the judicial process".
Supporters have accused the police of a botched investigation, and an allege unfair trial that was closed to the public because it involved children. (+++++)(++++)
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