JAKARTA, Indonesia — Four janitors charged with raping a kindergartner at a prestigious international school in Indonesia retracted their confessions Wednesday, saying they were tortured by police during questioning.
They made the retractions on the second day of the closed-door trials of five custodians at the Jakarta International School, which is facing a storm of controversy following allegations of additional abuse.
The school was shaken earlier this year in an unrelated case after news surfaced that William Vahey, an American who taught there from 1992 to 2002, killed himself as the FBI was investigating evidence that he may have sexually abused scores of teenage boys during a 40-year career at 10 international schools across four continents. However, there have been no allegations that he molested any students in Indonesia.
Six custodians — five men and a woman — were arrested in April. However, one man committed suicide by drinking bathroom cleanser while in police custody. Their trials began Tuesday at the South Jakarta District Court with the first male defendant.
Patra M. Zen, one of their lawyers, said the defendants insisted Wednesday they were innocent and retracted the confessions they had given investigators, saying they could not withstand the alleged torture.
The defendants are Virgiawan Amir, Syahrial, Zainal Abidin and Afrischa Setyani. Setyani, the only woman, is accused of being an accomplice. The first hearing on Tuesday was for the fifth defendant, Agun Iskandar.
They could face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty of raping the 6-year-old boy, whose parents are seeking $125 million in compensation from the school.
Since the case of the janitors surfaced, two other families of young male students have come forward, leading to the arrests in July of Canadian school administrator Neil Bantleman and Indonesia teaching assistant Ferdinant Tjiong.
A campaign on social media has called for the release of the staff members, who have denied the allegations.
The school is attended by the children of foreign diplomats, businesspeople and Indonesia's elite. It has 2,400 students aged 3 to 18 from about 60 different countries.