PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Parents of some of the children who 10 U.S. missionaries tried to take out of Haiti after its catastrophic earthquake told a judge Tuesday that they freely handed over their kids, the Americans’ lawyer said.
The parents’ testimony means no law was broken and “we can’t talk any more about trafficking of human beings,” attorney Aviol Fleurant told reporters.
He said he was confident the judge will dismiss the case.
Nine of the Americans, most from an Idaho church group, have now been interviewed by the judge, who is to decide whether they will stand trial. The judge did not speak with reporters.
Flaurent said the Americans would be back in court today.
The Americans were charged with kidnapping and criminal association last week for trying to take 33 children into the neighboring Dominican Republic on Jan. 29 without proper documentation.
The Baptist missionaries say they were heading to a Dominican orphanage following Haiti’s devastating quake and had only good intentions. Their leader, Laura Silsby of Meridian, Idaho, told the Associated Press the day after their arrest that the children were obtained from orphanages and relatives.
However, the parents of some of the children told the AP last week that they turned their youngsters over to the group. The parents said they did so willingly after the missionaries promised the kids would be educated and relatives could visit them.
Silsby was the only American in the case not to appear in court Tuesday. The lawyer who represented the missionaries until last week said that Silsby deceived the rest of the group about having proper paperwork and that everyone but her should go free.
The Americans’ original Haitian lawyer was fired late Friday. The Dominican attorney who had hired him claimed the Haitian attempted to bribe the detainees’ way out of jail without their knowledge. The Haitian lawyer denied that.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.