Monday, April 5, 2010

HAITI:'Lawyer' For US Kidnappers Faces US Extradition


SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — A man who acted as a lawyer for U.S. missionaries accused of kidnapping 33 Haitian children after the devastating earthquake will face a hearing this month on a U.S. extradition request, an official said Monday.

It had been unclear whether Jorge Puello would be extradited to the U.S., where he is wanted on smuggling charges, or El Salvador, where authorities allege he led a prostitution ring.

Gisela Cueto, an assistant general prosecutor for the Dominican Republic, told The Associated Press on Monday that Puello will face extradition to the U.S. at an April 28 hearing even though the El Salvador charges are more serious. She said the Central American nation did not complete a formal extradition request.

Puello is wanted in El Salvador for alleged crimes against children; sexual exploitation of minors for pornography and prostitution; organized crime; and human trafficking. Interpol had issued an arrest warrant for Puello at El Salvador's request.

He is wanted in the U.S. state of Vermont and in Canada for allegedly smuggling illegal immigrants and in the U.S. city of Philadelphia for purported probation violations related to fraud charges, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The 32-year-old was detained last month at the United States' request as he left a McDonald's restaurant in the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo.

Puello initially served as legal adviser and spokesman for the 10 U.S. Baptists who were detained in Haiti on child-kidnapping charges in February, but authorities later identified him as the man wanted in El Salvador.

He attracted international attention when he provided the missionaries with food, medicine and legal assistance. One of the Baptists' Haitian lawyers, Aviol Fleurant, told the AP that Puello absconded with $30,000 in legal fees the Americans had raised for Fleurant.

Puello, who was born in New York and holds dual U.S.-Dominican citizenship, says he is innocent of all accusations.

Nine of the missionaries, most of whom are from Idaho, have been released by Haiti jail and returned to the U.S. Group leader Laura Silsby remains in custody at the police station that is being used as Haiti's temporary government headquarters.

Source: AP

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