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Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Ten mem­bers of a U.S. mis­sion­ary group who tried to take 33 chil­dren out of Haiti af­ter the na­tion’s dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake were charged with child kid­nap­ping and crim­i­nal as­so­ci­a­tion on Thurs­day, their Haitian lawyer said.

Ed­win Coq said af­ter a court hear­ing that a judge found suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to charge the Amer­i­cans, who were ar­rested Fri­day at Haiti’s bor­der with the Do­mini­can Repub­lic. Coq at­tended Thurs­day’s hear­ing and rep­re­sents the en­tire group in Haiti.

Group leader Laura Silsby has said they were try­ing to take or­phans and aban­doned chil­dren to an or­phan­age in the neigh­bour­ing Do­mini­can Repub­lic. She ac­knowl­edged they may have lacked pa­per­work but said they just meant to help vic­tims of the quake. Of­fi­cials say many of the chil­dren still have par­ents.

The U.S. cit­i­zens, most of them mem­bers of an Idaho-based church group, were whisked away from the closed court hear­ing to jail in Port-au-Prince, the cap­i­tal. One of them, Laura Silsby, waved and smiled faintly to re­porters but de­clined to an­swer ques­tions.

Coq said that un­der Haiti’s le­gal sys­tem, there won’t be an open trial, but a judge will con­sider the ev­i­dence and could ren­der a ver­dict in about three months.

Coq said a Haitian pros­e­cu­tor told him the Amer­i­cans were charged be­cause they had the chil­dren in their pos­ses­sion. No one from the Haitian gov­ern­ment could be reached im­me­di­ately for com­ment.

Each kid­nap­ping count car­ries a pos­si­ble sen­tence of five to 15 years in prison. Each crim­i­nal as­so­ci­a­tion count has a po­ten­tial sen­tence of three to nine years.

Coq said that nine of the 10 knew noth­ing about the al­leged scheme, or that pa­per­work for the chil­dren was not in or­der.

“I’m go­ing to do ev­ery­thing I can to get the nine out,” Coq said. That would still leave mis­sion leader Laura Silsby fac­ing charges.

Only min­utes ear­lier, the Amer­i­cans’ Do­mini­can lawyer, Jorge Puello, had said he ex­pected at least nine of the 10 to be re­leased Thurs­day, and said he was ar­rang­ing a char­ter flight for them from Santo Domingo, the Do­mini­can cap­i­tal.

Af­ter the Haitian lawyer’s an­nounce­ment, Puello could not be reached by tele­phone for com­ment.

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