Tags: CB | Haiti | Americans | Detained

Haiti Frees U.S. Missionary; Group Leader Still Held

Monday, 08 Mar 2010 04:07 PM


One of two U.S. Baptist missionaries still held on kidnapping charges in Haiti was released Monday, but the group's leader remained in custody.

Charisa Coulter was taken from her jail cell to the airport by U.S. Embassy staff more than a month after she and nine other Americans were arrested for trying to take 33 children out of Haiti after the earthquake.

Coulter did not smile or speak to reporters as she left jail.

Just before she left, her lawyer, Louis Ricardo Chachoute, told reporters: "I am here to confirm the freedom of Miss Coulter."

Laura Silsby, the leader of the Idaho-based missionaries, was in another part of the city — in a closed hearing before the judge who had previously said he expected to release both of them soon.

Chachoute said he believed Silsby would be released but did not know when.

The Americans, most from Idaho, were detained on Jan. 29 while trying to leave the country without proper documents to remove the children. Their arrest came as Haitian authorities were trying to crack down on unauthorized adoptions to prevent child trafficking in the chaos following the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake.

Silsby initially said the children were orphaned in quake that the government has killed more than 230,000 people. But it was later found that the children had been given away by still-living parents.

The group planned to take the children to the neighboring Dominican Republic to an orphanage Silsby was creating in a former hotel.

The judge released eight of the Americans on Feb. 17 after concluding the parents voluntarily gave up their children in the belief that the Americans would give them a better life. But he decided that he still had additional questions for Silsby and Coulter.

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