Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman, who spent years in an Indonesian jail after being accused of sexually abusing students, says he’s happy to be back in Canada.
“Five years ago I was wrongfully accused and convicted of crimes I did not commit and furthermore never occurred,” Bantleman said in a statement on Thursday.
“I applied for clemency which I am pleased was granted by Indonesia last month, upholding essential justice and human rights.”
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Bantleman went on to thank the federal government for its “steadfast commitment to seeing us home,” as well as friends, colleagues and his brother, Guy, “for the tremendous amount of time, effort and love that he poured into campaigning for my return.”
“Most of all I want to thank my wife, Tracy,” he said. “I have no doubt that without her love and commitment this day would not have been possible. Her tireless efforts with the coordination and communication between our legal team, school, embassy and family in Canada was the key to securing my freedom.”
The statement did not say when Bantleman returned to Canada. Global Affairs Canada declined to comment on the case.
Bantleman is from Burlington, Ont., and also worked as a teacher at Webber Academy in Calgary for close to ten years. His release ends a legal saga that dates back to 2014.
WATCH: Indonesian court sends Canadian teacher Neil Bantleman back to prison
Bantleman and an Indonesian teaching assistant were arrested in July of that year while working at a prestigious international school in Jakarta.
Both men were accused of abusing three students and went through years of legal wrangling in Indonesian courts. The men were initially convicted, saw those convictions overturned, then ultimately went back to prison when Indonesia’s highest court reinstated the original decision and sentenced them to 11 years behind bars.
Bantleman’s family consistently maintained both the teacher and his co-accused were innocent and had become victims of a corrupt legal system in Indonesia.
WATCH: Head of Webber Academy reacts to news Neil Bantleman has returned to Canada after arrest in Indonesia
The Head of Webber Academy, Neil Webber, said that the school’s staff were also convinced of his innocence, and they had communicated with him while he was in Indonesia.
“He had great integrity, he was well respected as a teacher, well respected as a human being, and so there’s no doubt in our minds of his innocence,” Webber said.
Bantleman concluded his statement by asking for privacy “so we can reconnect with family and move forward with our lives.”
With files from the Canadian Press and Michael King
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