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Judge Expected to Free Last 2 Baptist Volunteers from Jail

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  • Laura Silsby
    (Photo: AP Images / Javier Galeano)
    Laura Silsby, 40, right, and Charisa Coulter, 24, both of Meridian, Idaho, walk towards the courthouse in Port-au-Prince, Thursday Feb. 18, 2010.
By Michelle A. Vu, Christian Post Reporter
February 24, 2010|8:59 am

A Haiti judge is expected to free the last two American volunteers suspected of child kidnapping.

Judge Bernard Saint-Vil said he would make his decision this week concerning Laura Silsby and Charis Coulter.

Last week, Saint-Vil released eight of the ten volunteers and held Silsby and Coulter for further questioning regarding their motive. Silsby is the leader of the team and said they had come to take Haitian orphans to an orphanage they were preparing in the Dominican Republic.

Saint-Vil went to the Dominican Republic recently to see the place where Silsby said she planned to open the orphanage.

Attorney Avion Fleurent, who represents the Americans, said his clients will be released as soon as Wednesday, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Saint-Vil said Tuesday he would release the two Americans due to lack of “criminal grounds.”

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The group was arrested Jan. 29 by Haitian authorities as they were trying to transport 33 Haitian children to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic after a massive earthquake struck Port-au-Prince. Haitian officials say the group did not have permission to take the children out of the country. The American team was subsequently charged with child kidnapping and criminal association.

The Haitian judge overseeing the case released eight of the ten volunteers last Wednesday on condition that they promise to return if needed as investigators continue to examine the case. The eight Christian volunteers returned to the United States early Thursday morning.

Last Friday, one of the freed volunteers, Jim Allen, addressed the controversy about the children they were trying to transport not being orphans. Allen told CNN's Anderson Cooper that he was “not at all” aware that most of the children had a living parent. He thought the adults that brought the children to the bus were their aunts, uncles or grandparents.

“They specifically told us this child has no one to take care of them,” Allen said, "that both their father and mother are no longer living.”

Allen also said he saw, but did not read, the documents giving the group permission to take the children to the Dominican Republic.

Most of the American volunteers belong to two Idaho Baptist churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Allen hailed from Texas and another member came from Kansas.

 

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