Haiti frees 8 Americans, holds two over child kidnapping

A judge ordered them freed, but two of their colleagues remained in detention for further questioning on charges of kidnapping children.

Haiti frees 8 Americans, holds two over child kidnapping

Eight American missionaries flew out of Haiti on Wednesday after a judge ordered them freed, but two of their colleagues remained in detention for further questioning on charges of kidnapping children.

The eight freed missionaries were driven to Port-au-Prince airport by U.S. Embassy officials and then departed the earthquake-hit country on a U.S. Air Force aircraft, witnesses said. "They have departed Haiti for the United States," the U.S. State Department said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The 10 Americans were arrested last month on charges that they tried to take 33 Haitian children out of the country without proper documentation after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.

The judge found "no evidence" of criminal intent among the eight who were freed. But he ordered group leader Laura Silsby and another woman, Charisa Coulter, held for further questioning about their previous trips to Haiti.

As they were released from the cells, one of the women in the group was heard complaining loudly: "You guys took my phone. I didn't do anything and I'm innocent and now its gone," she said.

Silsby and other members of the group of missionaries have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying they had only wanted to help "orphans" left destitute by the quake.

But they had no Haitian identity or exit papers for the children. Many had living parents.

The Americans were arrested on Jan. 29, 17 days after the magnitude 7 earthquake that killed at least 212,000 people.

The missionaries' Haitian lawyer, Aviol Fleurant, said he expected Silsby and Coulter to be eventually freed as well after questioning by the judge.

In its statement, the U.S. State Department said Haitian authorities "have been cooperative in ensuring the individuals' safety and welfare since their arrest and we have every expectation this will continue."


Reuters


Related news reports:

Haiti to deepen US child kidnapping probe over fresh info

Last Mod: 18 Şubat 2010, 12:23
Add Comment