U.S. missionaries to stay in Haiti jail over weekend

Fri, Feb 26 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Two U.S. missionaries will remain in jail in Haiti through at least Tuesday, while a judge takes testimony that is expected to clear them of child kidnapping charges, the judge hearing the case said on Friday.

Investigative judge Bernard Sainvil said that before freeing Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter he wanted witnesses that he had already examined in the Dominican Republic to give their testimony in Haiti.

"The Americans will have to stay in jail while I hear those people ... the hearings will take place Monday and Tuesday, and they won't be released before I finish," Sainvil told Reuters.

"The people I met in the Dominican Republic all confirmed statements made previously ... by the Americans. The statements played in their favor," he added.

Sainvil said on Tuesday that Silsby and Coulter could be released this week.

They were among 10 Americans arrested on January 29 on charges that they tried to take 33 Haitian children out of the country without proper documentation after the devastating January 12 earthquake.

Eight were released last week, but Silsby, the group leader, and Coulter, her assistant, were held in detention for further questioning.

They have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying they only wanted to help orphans left destitute by the quake.

But they had no Haitian identity or exit papers for the children. Many of the children had living parents who acknowledged turning them over to the missionaries in the belief they would have better care in the hands of the Americans.

Haitian President Rene Preval estimates the magnitude 7 earthquake killed about 300,000 people.

(Reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva; editing by Tim Gaynor and Mohammad Zargham)

© Thomson Reuters 2010. All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Republication or redistribution of Thomson Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters and its logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Thomson Reuters group of companies around the world.

Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.

No comments: