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Haiti drops all charges against nine of 10 Baptist volunteers

Charges have been dropped against nine of the 10 Baptist missionaries who were arrested while trying to bus 33 child earthquake survivors from Haiti to the Dominican Republic on Jan. 29, a spokesman for Idaho Sen. Jim Risch told CNN, although the expedition’s leader, Laura Silsby, is still in Haitian jail.

Eight of the original 10 were released in mid-February and Charisa Coulter was released on March 8.

Background

The Risch spokesman said examining Judge Bernard Saint-Vil has completed his investigation of Silsby and it has been submitted to the prosecutor, who is expected to return his recommendation with regard to Silsby within a week.

In mid-March when bail for Silsby was rejected, Saint-Vil’s investigation turned upon whether there had been a Jan. 26 attempt by Silsby to bus child earthquake survivors out of Haiti. At that time, Saint-Vil brought the additional charge of “organization of irregular trips” against all 10 Americans, The Laredo Sun reported, “who were arrested in January, even though nine of them have been released on bail and have left the country.”

The prosecutor is now expected to return a recommendation within a week. He may recommend additional investigation or a finding of “guilty” or “not guilty,” U.S. State Department officials said.

Paul Thompson, one of those originally charged and pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, told Baptist Press last week that Silsby “has been a consistent minister to the other inmates” during her time in jail, sharing Creole Bibles. He also said, “The church in Haiti continues to visit Laura on a regular basis, bringing her food, water and other necessary items,” Thompson said, adding she has had enough water and food to share with fellow inmates. Haitian law requires that prisoners be fed by outsiders, he explained.

It is a cautionary case. Silsby was warned repeatedly during the days preceding arrest of the 10 that she was headed for legal difficulty. There was not one orphan, the Associated Press determined, among the 33 children the group was attempting to transport to the Dominican Republic.

The children have apparently all been restored to their families. UNICEF and others agree that an approach which keeps families together when that is possible, reduces the likelihood of inadvertent harm and helps make it more difficult for child traffickers to take advantage of a natural catastrophe to prey on children.

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April 16, 2010 - Posted by | children, SBC | , ,

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