Haiti Drops Kidnapping Charges Against 9 U.S. Christians

Haiti has dropped all charges against nine of ten American Christians who were arrested in January.

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch was informed of the dropped charges Thursday afternoon by the State Department, according to Kyle Hines, a spokesman for Risch.

"The senator is pleased to hear that the charges have been dropped and is looking forward to the situation being resolved," Hines told CNN.

Pastor Clint Henry of Meridian's Central Valley Baptist Church welcomed the news.

"We knew that we were innocent so this is what we were expecting to happen. We hoped it would happen much quicker but praise God that has come," he said, according to Idaho's News Channel 7.

Though celebratory, Henry and the nine volunteers are in prayer for Laura Silsby, the leader of the team who remains jailed in Haiti.

The group – most of whom are from two Baptist churches in Idaho – attempted to take 33 Haitian children to an orphanage they were setting up in the Dominican Republic early this year. They were arrested and charged with child kidnapping and criminal association.

The volunteers say they simply wanted to help the Haitian children who lost their parents after the massive earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince in January. Complications, however, arose when the team was found without the proper paperwork and when it was discovered that many of the children they tried to transport had at least one living parent.

Most of the volunteers were released in February after being detained in Haiti for weeks. The ninth team member, Charisa Coulter, arrived home in Idaho last month. They were allowed to return to their homes in the U.S. on the condition that they promise to return if needed as investigators continued to examine the case.

Last month, Haitian Judge Saint-Vil brought additional charges of "organizing irregular travel" against the team after discovering an earlier attempt to take the children out of the country. The team attempted to take 40 children to the Dominican Republic on Jan. 26. The charge carries a penalty of three to six years of imprisonment.

With Silsby still in jail, the Haitian judge said earlier that he has until early May to decide whether to release Silsby or order a trial.