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Indonesia court throws out abuse lawsuit against international school


GavelAn Indonesian court Monday rejected a $125-million sex abuse lawsuit against an elite international school, a lawyer said, in a possible boost for a Canadian staff member and a local colleague jailed in a connected case.

The Jakarta Intercultural School, one of Indonesia’s most prestigious educational institutes and a favourite with expatriates, has been rocked by allegations that young pupils were sexually assaulted.

The scandal began last year with claims that cleaners committed abuse, before allegations were levelled at Canadian school administrator Neil Bantleman and Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinand Tjiong.

The pair were jailed for 10 years each in April after being found guilty, but the case was criticised by the capital’s expatriate community and foreign governments as flawed and it raised questions about the rule of law in Indonesia.

Supporters of the men, who maintain their innocence, claim the decision to pursue them was linked to the multi-million-dollar civil suit filed by the mother of a six-year-old boy at the school.

But on Monday, the South Jakarta District Court threw out the civil case, deciding it “could not accept it due to technicalities”, the school’s lawyer Harry Ponto told AFP.

While the civil case and the criminal cases are separate, the lawyer said he hoped Monday’s ruling would help the two staff members. They have appealed their convictions and a decision is expected in several weeks.

“The verdict today is good news for us. We hope it will be the starting point to uncovering the real truth — the teachers are innocent,” Ponto said.

Both Bantleman and Tjiong have received backing from pupils’ parents and the school, with supporters rallying outside court when hearings in their case are held.

Their backers accuse police of a botched investigation, and allege unfair trials, although the prosecution insists that the testimony of the alleged victims is the truth and is supported by medical evidence.

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