Canadian teacher convicted in Indonesia pans feds for lack of help

Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman reacts during his verdict trial at South Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Bantleman, serving time in an Indonesian prison on child-abuse convictions, says the federal government has done little to protect him from what he calls an abuse of his human rights. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Tatan Syuflana

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

A Canadian teacher serving time in an Indonesian prison on child-abuse convictions says the federal government has done little to protect him from what he calls an abuse of his human rights.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Neil Bantleman pleads for Ottawa to review his case and speak up on his behalf.

Bantleman says he and family members have received more vocal shows of support from the United States government than from Canadian officials.

He also asserts his innocence, says the process used to convict him was corrupt, and calls on the government to help protect his rights.

Bantleman and an Indonesian teaching assistant were convicted earlier this month of sexually abusing three children at the Jakarta International School.

The teacher from Burlington, Ont., was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but says he plans to appeal the conviction.

Bantleman’s appeal to Harper, distributed by his brother on Thursday, repeats frequently voiced criticisms about the fairness and transparency of the trial that convicted him. He says the flawed process amounts to a human-rights violation, adding that he expected stronger support from his home country.

“I realize the government cannot interfere in the legal proceedings of another country and I do not expect the government to make strong statements against the workings of any other country’s legal system,” Bantleman writes in the letter.

“However, what I cannot understand is the unresponsiveness of the federal government with regards to my case.”

Bantleman is not the only Canadian to speak out against the government for failing to support citizens facing legal troubles abroad.

A lawyer representing journalist Mohamed Fahmy has said Ottawa’s inaction is the only factor preventing his client’s return from Egypt, where he was convicted on terrorism charges in a trial loudly denounced by international human rights observers.

After being tried with two colleagues, the producer with Al Jezeera English was sentenced to seven years in prison but a successful appeal resulted in a retrial being ordered and he is currently undergoing a second hearing in Cairo.

Fahmy gave up his Egyptian citizenship for what he thought was a requirement to be deported under a law that saw one of his co-accused return home to Australia but he remained in prison.

He and his Egyptian co-worker Baher Mohamed were eventually granted bail after their retrial began.

© The Canadian Press, 2015

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