Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Haiti Judge:Laura Silsby Deceived U.S. Missionaries

By FRANK BAJAK/ The Associated Press

Laura Silsby, the only missionary still in jail, still faces a charge of organizing the illegal transport of 33 children in the chaos after the disaster.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- The judge who dropped kidnapping charges against Laura Silsby and nine other U.S. missionaries said Tuesday he did so because the children they were trying to take out of Haiti were all given over freely by their parents.

But Silsby, the group's leader, will be tried on a lesser charge of arranging illegal travel because she knew she had no right to take the 33 children out of earthquake-ravaged Haiti, the judge said.

Judge Bernard Saint-Vil told The Associated Press that Silsby deceived the other Baptist missionaries by telling them she had the proper documents to take the kids to the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Silsby remains jailed in Haiti and faces up to 3 years in prison if convicted. The other missionaries, most also from Idaho, were freed in February and March and allowed to leave Haiti.

Saint-Vil said Silsby's trial, to be heard by a different judge, could begin as early as next week.

Silsby acknowledged to him that she broke the law, Saint-Vil said. "She knows she didn't have the legal right to leave the country" because she spent three days after arriving Jan. 25 trying in vain to obtain the necessary documents, he said.

Officials from the Dominican Republic, where Silsby was setting up an orphanage, told her she needed adoption certificates and passports, none of which she obtained for any of the children.

But, the judge added, Silsby told the other missionaries she had all the papers needed to take the children, ages two months to 12 years, into the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

Silsby, 40, has refused AP interview requests after telling the news agency the day after her Jan. 29 arrest that all of the children she was trying to take out of the country were either orphans or were given up by distant relatives.

Her attorney, Shiller Roi, was asked by the AP on Tuesday about Saint-Vil's assertion that she deceived the fellow Baptists she enlisted in her "rescue mission."

He did not directly respond, but said: "I know only that the nine missionaries are clean, totally clean."

On Monday, the judge ordered both Silsby and Jean Sainvil, an Atlanta-based pastor born in Haiti, to stand trial on the charge of arranging illegal travel. Sainvil did not respond to a voice message left on his cell phone.


Source: WashingtonPost

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