Haiti judge recommends 10 U.S. missionaries detained on kidnapping charges be released
for the detainees while the investigation continues. But it wasn’t clear whether their possible release means they would be allowed to leave Haiti, or what implications the judge’s decision could have on whether the charges may be dropped.
By midday Thursday, Saint-Vil had yet to deliver his formal recommendation to the prosecutor.
Gary Lassade, an attorney for one of the Americans, said he expects the judge will recommend the case be dropped — though the prosecutor could also appeal that ruling.
The Americans, most from an Idaho Baptist group, were charged last week with child kidnapping and criminal association after being arrested Jan. 29 while trying to take 33 children, ages 2 to 12, across the border to an orphanage they were trying to set up in the Dominican Republic.
The following day, group leader Laura Silsby of Meridian, Idaho, told the AP that the children were obtained either from orphanages or from distant relatives. She said only children who were found not to have living parents or relatives who could care for them might be put up for adoption.
However, at least 20 of the children are from a single village and have living parents. Some of the parents told the AP they willingly turned over their children to the missionaries on the promise the Americans would educate them and let relatives visit.
Drew Ham, assistant pastor at Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, said Thursday that the judge’s recommendation is encouraging but it’s too soon to celebrate with the detainees still in custody.
“It’s a good sign,” Ham told the AP. “But we still don’t have confirmation of their release.”
On Wednesday, from behind cell bars in the stuffy, grimy jail where they have been held, the missionaries refused to be interviewed.
“ We’ve said all we’re going to say for now. We don’t want to talk now,” Silsby said. “Maybe tomorrow.”
The women were held separately from the men, who shared their cell with nine Haitian men, some of whom played checkers on the cell floor.