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Family of Canadian teacher jailed in Indonesia says federal officials taking case seriously

Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman sits on the defendant's chair prior to the start of his trial hearing at South Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Dec. 2, 2014. Family members of a Canadian teacher jailed in Indonesia say they're satisfied the federal government is doing more than paying lip service to the case.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP,Tatan Syuflana
March 13, 2016 - 7:00 AM

OTTAWA - Family members of a Canadian teacher jailed in Indonesia say they're satisfied the federal government is doing more than paying lip service to the case.

Last month Indonesia's high court overturned Neil Bantleman's acquittal of charges of sexually abusing children and he was put back in prison.

Bantleman has maintained his innocence since he was accused of abusing three children at a prestigious international school in the capital Jakarta.

The case attracted the attention of Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, who issued a statement last month saying the government was "deeply dismayed and shocked'' that the acquittal ruling was overturned.

Bantleman's brother Guy spent the past two days in Ottawa meeting with MPs and officials in the department of Global Affairs.

The family has maintained Neil Bantleman was the victim of a corrupt Indonesian justice system and his brother said he came away with the feeling that the federal Liberals are serious about finding a way to get the teacher freed.

"We are very satisfied they're taking this seriously," Guy Bantleman said in a phone interview late Friday.

"They've laid out a plan as far as how very senior government officials will be involved over the ... coming weeks."

Bantleman said he couldn't share many details of what the involvement would be, only saying there would be "very significant high level discussions going on."

"It's an ongoing dialogue, it's not just a statement of concern with this case, it's talking about how this can be resolved," he said.

Neil Bantleman can make one last appeal to the courts to review his conviction and his lawyers will prepare an application later this year, but Guy Bantleman said both he and the government officials he spoke with agreed it was a long shot.

"They seemed to be really focused on the fact that this was going to be more of a diplomatic effort than a judicial effort," Guy Bantleman said.

The case has dragged through the Indonesian justice system since Neil Bantleman was arrested in July, 2014.

He was convicted and handed a 10 year prison sentence last April and then freed in August when the conviction was overturned.

Bantleman turned himself in when the Indonesian High Court quashed the acquittal last month and added a year to his prison sentence.

His family have described the conditions in the prison as squalid and said although Bantleman is showing "great resilience," they're concerned that his health is at risk.

"From a safety concern, that's something that we need to focus on," his brother Guy Bantleman said.

"They (the federal government) need to take all that seriously and they seem to be."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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