Haiti to free Americans in child kidnapping case

A Haitian judge said he had ruled in favor of the release of 10 U.S. missionaries accused of kidnapping 33 children.

Haiti to free Americans in child kidnapping case

A Haitian judge said on Thursday he had ruled in favor of the release of 10 U.S. missionaries accused of kidnapping 33 children and trying to take them out of the earthquake-stricken country.

"I just signed the request for the release of the 10 Americans submitted by the lawyers and I have sent it to the prosecutor's office," Judge Bernard Sainvil said.

But the prosecutor, Joseph Manes Louis, said he would not work on the judge's decision until after the weekend. That means the Americans would not be released until Monday at the earliest.

Sainvil earlier told Reuters that once the prosecutor had given his opinion, he could formally issue a release order for the Americans, who have been jailed since they were stopped at Haiti's border with the Dominican Republic on Jan. 29.

Once the release order was issued, "they can go directly to the airport if they want and leave, but they should provide a guarantee of representation if further questions need to be asked," Sainvil said.

Louis said: "We did not have time to work on the dossier today and tomorrow is a holiday, so the next working day is Monday. We will look at the dossier on Monday and then we will give our position."

He said his opinion would not necessarily alter the outcome.

"The final decision is up to the judge. The law does not oblige him to take into account my position," he said. "He only has to wait for my conclusions before issuing his order."

The five men and five women have denied any wrongdoing and said they were only trying to help orphans left destitute by the quake, which shattered the Haitian capital and left more than 1 million people homeless. But evidence showed that most of the children are not ophans.

During hearings in the case, Sainvil heard from 10 parents of children handed over to the Americans. They said they had turned them over because they had no food or water to give them, and believed they would have a better life with the missionaries elsewhere.

The U.S. government had said it was providing the Americans with consular access and monitoring their case, but made clear it "did not want to interfere".

Haiti's beleaguered government had warned that traffickers could try to take advantage of the chaos that followed the quake by taking away vulnerable children, and it tightened adoption procedures.


Agencies

Last Mod: 12 Şubat 2010, 13:25
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