A Haitian judge on Wednesday freed eight American volunteers, who attempted to take children out of the country, and said they can leave the country immediately. Two, however, remain in jail.
The Americans were freed on bail but they will not be required to post bond to leave, a lawyer involved in the case told CNN. Authorities will continue to investigate the case after the church volunteers return to the United States.
In late January, a group of ten American Christians were arrested while trying to transport a bus with 33 Haitian children to the Dominican Republic. The group says it was taking the children to an orphanage in the neighboring country where the children would be cared for and educated. Members said they were motivated by love and concern for the children after a massive earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince.
Haitian authorities, however, say the group did not receive permission from the government to take the children out of the country.
The volunteers face charges of child kidnapping and criminal association.
On Feb. 11, the Haitian judge overseeing the case recommended that all ten U.S. volunteers be freed while the case continues to be investigated. Despite the recommendation, the volunteers were not allowed to leave until Wednesday’s announcement.
Most of the team members are from two Idaho churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
In previous weeks, Southern Baptist leaders have called for the volunteers’ release. The Christian leaders contend that the group was likely motivated by humanitarian concern when they tried to take the children out of the country.
At this time there are no further details available about the release of the American volunteers.