Clinton’s intervention could free missionaries from Haitian jail
HAITI: A diplomatic deal over the 10 United States missionaries jailed in Haiti on child abduction charges may lead to the release this week of all except the group’s leader, Laura Silsby, according to legal sources in Port-au-Prince.
The intervention of former US president Bill Clinton, who is coordinating relief efforts in Haiti, may accelerate the resolution of an affair that has embarrassed Washington, dismayed relief agencies and angered many Haitians who believe their plight is being exploited by unscrupulous foreigners.
During a weekend visit to Portau-Prince, Clinton said the Haitian Government was ‘‘not looking for some big fight’’.
‘‘They just want to protect their children . . . I think they’ll find a way to defuse the crisis,’’ he said.
Edwin Coq, the Haitian lawyer representing the missionaries, has applied for the release of his clients pending further investigations, but he said Silsby might be treated more severely because of her alleged role in organising the attempted removal
Laura Silsby, leader of the US missionaries jailed on child kidnapping charges. of 33 children authorisation.
The arrest of the group from Idaho – mainly volunteers from two Baptist churches – was greeted with bewilderment in US church circles, where the missionaries were hailed as well-meaning do-gooders.
Yet it has since become clear that few of them knew much about their leader before their departure for Haiti.
Many learnt about the trip through email messages circulated by other church members and most had assumed that all bureaucratic and legal details had been taken care of by Silsby, 40.
Her father had done missionary work in Haiti.
‘‘All they did was try and help,’’ said Robert Lankford, whose daughter-in-law and granddaughter are among those under arrest.
Coq said of his clients: ‘‘Laura was the only one who had knowledge of what was going on. The rest came to Haiti to help. It is scandalous that they are being detained.’’
Silsby’s future has been clouded by US reports that she was pressing ahead with plans to build an orphanage in the Dominican Republic even though she appeared to be in serious financial trouble at home.
A month after she founded her charity, the New Life Children’s Refuge, last November, her Idaho home was repossessed. She also faces several lawsuits over unpaid bills and employee wages relating to an internet business she had founded, PersonalShopper.com.
Silsby had visited the Dominican Republic and Haiti in December and appeared to have chosen a former hotel in the northern Dominican resort of Cabarete as a possible refuge for Haitian children.
It is not yet clear whether she succeeded in buying the property, but she allegedly told Haitian police that was where she was taking the children. Her father, John Sander, has told reporters that the project was ‘‘just in the making’’.
Despite reports that many of the children taken by Silsby’s group were not orphans, some Haitian parents described her arrival as a ‘‘miracle’’ that offered their children a rare chance of a better life abroad.
However noble her intentions, Haitian authorities remain publicly adamant that her actions amounted to kidnapping. The judge in charge of the case will resume hearings today.
Making friends: Former US President Bill Clinton, greets US military personnel as he arrives in Haiti. Clinton, the UN special envoy to Haiti, is seeking a diplomatic solution over the arrests of 10 US missionaries last week.