10 Americans Charged With Kidnapping in Haiti

The Baptist missionaries accused of trying to take 33 Haitian children out of the country were charged with kidnapping and criminal association late Thursday and returned to jail to await trial.

By Melissa Arteaga Marti | PODER360.com
Ruth Fremson | The New York Times

From left, Corinna Lankford and her daughter, Nicole, members of a Baptist congregation from Idaho, are driven away from a courthouse after being charged with abduction and criminal association on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The group tried to take 33 Haitian children to an orphanage across the border in the Dominican Republic, according to prosecutors.

The 10 U.S. Baptist missionaries detained in Haiti for trying to take 33 children out of the country were charged late Thursday with child kidnapping and criminal association.

Their arrests Jan. 29 came just as officials were trying to protect children from predators amid the chaos of the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The Americans, most of whom are members of two Idaho churches and range in ages from 18 to 55, said they were rescuing abandoned children and orphans from a nation that UNICEF said had 380,000 even before the quake. Most of the children came from the village of Callebas, where residents told The Associated Press that they handed over their children to the Americans because they were unable to feed or clothe them after the quake. They said the missionaries promised to educate the children and let relatives visit.

They acknowledged they may have committed a crime by trying to take the children across the border into the Dominican Republic without proper documents, but said they were unaware of that until after their arrest.

The investigating judge, who interviewed the missionaries Tuesday and Wednesday, found sufficient evidence to charge them for trying to take the children across the border into the Dominican Republic without documentation, attorney Edwin Coq said. Each was charged with kidnapping and criminal association. Coq said the case would be assigned a judge and that a verdict could take three months.

We expect that God's will will be done and we will be released," the group's leader, Laura Silsby, said on her way into court. "And we are looking to what God is going to do."

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. was open to discussing “other legal avenues” for the defendants — an apparent reference to the Haitian prime minister’s earlier suggestion that Haiti could consider sending the Americans back to the U.S. for prosecution.

A defense attorney says in the Haitian court system, a trial normally begins about three months from the sentencing, but in circumstances similar to this one, there is no clear idea of when there will be a trial.

If convicted on the charges, the group members could face anywhere between three to nine years in a Haitian prison.


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georgia hunter
2010-02-05 12:21:46

I think that maybe they should have done it a different way but their intention was good. Instead of handleing it like that others should try it a different way. what if that was your baby?