Neil Bantleman released from Indonesian prison, returns to Canada

A Canadian teacher imprisoned in Indonesia since 2014 after being convicted on charges of sexually assaulting students at a school in Jakarta has returned home, CBC News has confirmed.

Neil Bantleman has been back home for more than a week, says a source with direct knowledge of the case. His family reportedly has requested that media outlets respect his privacy.

Bantleman was convicted along with Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong in 2014 on charges of sexual assaulting young students at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS), where the children of many expatriates, diplomats and wealthy Indonesians are enrolled.

He and his co-accused were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Bantleman’s conviction was overturned in August 2015. Indonesia’s Supreme Court reinstated his conviction in February 2016 and added another year to his sentence.

Bantleman has maintained his innocence and the Canadian government has been lobbying hard for his release, arguing he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice. An investigation by CBC TV’s The Fifth Estate found that critical pieces of the evidence used to convict were seriously flawed.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland brought up Bantleman’s case on multiple occasions with Indonesian officials, sources say.

A year ago, a source with direct knowledge of Bantleman’s case told CBC News the Canadian government saw a window of opportunity opening to secure his release, but it might have to wait until after spring elections because of the controversy surrounding the case and the potential for blowback from Indonesians still convinced of his guilt.

Last October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Bantleman’s family in Burlington, Ont. and said his government had been working with Indonesian officials to obtain a “positive outcome” in his case.