Thursday, February 11, 2010

Haitian Judge Might Free American Baptists

Some of the American Baptist volunteers faced with charges of child kidnapping may be freed as early as Thursday, sources say.

The Haitian judge overseeing the case is expected to rule mid-afternoon on whether to release the ten Americans who attempted to transport 33 Haitian children to the Dominican Republic without permission.

Though the judge’s ruling cannot be confirmed, Reuters and CNN sources familiar with the case have said the judge might release two volunteers Thursday and six more next week. The last two members would remain in jail, according to the account.

Reuters sources say the judge decided the Americans had no “criminal intentions” when trying to remove the children from Haiti. Meanwhile, CNN sources say the Baptist volunteers could be released on bail and be allowed to return to the United States while authorities continue to investigate the charges.

Many of the current reports on the court case of the American missionaries in Haiti are based on inside sources that are not identified.

In late January, a group of ten American Christians were arrested while trying to transport a busload of Haitian children to the Dominican Republic. The group says it was taking the children to an orphanage in the neighboring country where the youths would be cared for and educated.

During the investigation, it was discovered that at least 20 of the children were not orphans as the group had said. Moreover, a Haitian police officer testified that the group made an earlier attempt to transport children before he stopped them.

The officer, who also testified in court, said he asked to see documents granting the group permission to take the children out of the country. The American team’s leader, Laura Silsby, said they had permission from the Dominican Republic to take 100 children across the border. Dominican authorities, however, have denied the claim.

A Dominican legal representative for the American team, Jorge Puello, claimed he has the paperwork from the Dominican government. He did not, however, show the documents to reporters.

On Wednesday, the legal representative of one of the team members, Jim Allen from Texas, announced that he has filed a separate motion requesting Allen's release.

Allen’s wife, Lisa, said her husband was recruited just 48 hours before the group’s departure. Allen is a construction worker and wanted to lend his skill in the rebuilding effort, according to his wife.

“Jim is an honest, hard-working American who just wanted to help those in need,” said Lisa Allen, in a statement. “Jim was invited to go with a group from Idaho just a couple of days before they left. He felt compelled to use his skills to help complete a temporary orphanage for those who had lost everything.”

The Liberty Legal Institute is representing Allen and has sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week requesting her to help secure the release of the American citizen.

Allen was invited by his cousin from Idaho to join the team. Most of the ten volunteers are from two Baptist churches in Idaho.

"We hope and pray that the State Department is doing everything it can to get all these Americans, in particular Jim Allen, home,” said Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for Liberty Legal Institute. “We have faith that the Haitian judge will do the right thing after Jim’s facts come to light.”

Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention have called on President Obama to help secure the release of the ten American volunteers and secure their safe return home. The two Idaho Baptist churches are affiliated with the SBC, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.

Source: ChristianPost

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