Thursday, March 4, 2010

Detained US Missionary: I'd Come Back to Haiti


American missionaries arrested on child kidnapping charges Laura Silsby, 40, center, and Charisa Coulter, 24, both of Meridian, Idaho, walk towards the courthouse in Port-au-Prince, Tuesday, March 2, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A U.S. Baptist missionary detained on suspicion of child trafficking in Haiti said Wednesday she would be ready to return again to the earthquake-ravaged country to work with children.

Laura Silsby told The Associated Press from her jail cell that she and nanny Charisa Coulter expect to be released soon, but would both readily come back despite their troubles here.

"Oh yes, both of us would come back to Haiti because there is so much need here, especially for the children," Silsby told an AP reporter at the airport-side police station where they are being held.

"We would definitely come back to help them once this misunderstanding or whatever you want to call it is sorted out."

Louis Ricardo Chachoute, a lawyer for the Americans, said he has asked that they be released without bail and believes it will happen by the end of the week, perhaps as early as Thursday. The decision is up to the judge in the case.

"What I can say is our clients are innocent," Chachoute said. "They only wanted to help."

The Idaho missionaries were detained with eight other Americans on Jan. 29 while trying to take 33 children from Haiti without the proper papers.

Silsby initially said the children were orphaned in the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed a government-estimated 230,000 people. But it was found the children had been given away by still-living parents.

Judge Bernard Saint-Vil could decide on releasing the women at any time. He told AP he is awaiting a recommendation from prosecutors and could order their release even if authorities decide to continue investigating.

Silsby and Coulter denied any suggestion they were trafficking in children, saying that the group was arranging an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. Three witnesses were brought in to corroborate that story to Saint-Vil on Tuesday.

The missionary said she wants to go ahead with setting up that orphanage, taking in both earthquake victims and the children of Haitian migrant sugarcane cutters in the Dominican Republic.

Associated Press Writer Evens Sanon contributed to this report.

Source: AP

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