Attorney: Haiti Volunteer to Set Facts Straight

Jim Allen, one of the eight American volunteers who were freed this week by a Haitian judge, will clear up a lot of false information when he starts to speak to the media, said one of his legal counsels Friday.

Allen is scheduled to speak to Oprah and CNN's Anderson Cooper on Friday, and more media outlets next week.

"There have been a lot of false things that have been out in the media about what happened. Jim can certainly talk about what really happened and get the true facts out," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel at Liberty Legal Institute, which represented Allen, to The Christian Post.

A group of ten American Christian volunteers were arrested Jan. 29 by Haitian authorities as they were trying to transport 33 Haitian children to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. 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.

On Wednesday, the judge overseeing the case released eight of the ten volunteers on bail. The Americans, however, were not required to post bond to leave. They only had to promise to return if needed as investigators continue to look into the case.

The eight Americans returned to the United States early Thursday morning, while two volunteers were held in Haiti for further questioning.

Among the volunteers, Allen, a welder from Texas, had gained special attention because it was made known that he joined the group only 48 hours before the trip. His legal team said Allen received an invitation from his cousin to join the team and accepted it thinking he would use his welding and construction skills to help in their plans to build an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.

But instead of welding, Allen spent the last three weeks in a grimy prison in earthquake-devastated Port-au-Prince.

Shackelford told The Christian Post that one piece of misinformation circulating concerns the situation surrounding the group's arrest. The attorney said the team had brought the bus with the children to the border where Dominican authorities said they had all the paperwork they needed. But the team decided to go back to Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince to check if there was any other paperwork they needed and was at that point arrested.

Media reports have said the American team was arrested at the border as they were trying to take the children out of the country.

"They were arrested not at the border; they were arrested in the middle of Haiti asking for the paperwork they needed," Shackelford said. "I don't know what an American could do trying to help and asking what they needed and then get arrested. I don't know if there is any way to avoid that. I think there was just chaos. It is a very unfortunate situation that these Americans got thrown into jail for three weeks."

Shackelford also mentioned that top officials from the Bush and Clinton administration, who are attorneys, joined their legal team to try to free Jim Allen. These officials, he said, were helpful in behind-the-scene talks with the State Department. But Shackelford said he does not know exactly if the U.S. government was directly involved in freeing the American volunteers.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had publicly stated that the U.S. government will leave the case for the Haitian judicial system to decide.

Nevertheless, Allen's attorney gave credit to the U.S. government for helping to safely transport the Americans back to U.S. soil. They came back on a U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo plane.

Shackelford also gave much credit to attorney Gary Lissade, who represented Allen in Haiti.

"As Jim said when he got on the plane right after he got back to the United States, that everything changed as soon as our attorney arrived," the Texas-based attorney said. "He said the guards treated him differently and everything completely changed. I think Gary is such a respected guy as the former minister of justice [of Haiti]."

Lamenting that most Americans do not know the real facts about the case, Shackelford said, "I think it will be good when they are able to see the truth and realize these are really good people who are going there trying to help and ended up in jail for essentially three weeks."