Haiti Releases 8 U.S. Missionaries
A judge in Haiti has freed eight of the 10 American missionaries arrested on charges of child kidnapping after trying to bring 33 child survivors of last month’s earthquake to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.
Judge Bernard Saint-Vil said the missionaries could return home after nearly three weeks in jail on the condition that they return to Haiti to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into their case.
“They will not have to post bail,” Saint-Vil was quoted by the Associated Press, “But they will have to come back at the request of the court.”
Laura Silsby, the group’s leader, and Charisa Coulter, will remain in jail for further questioning, according to an attorney for the missionaries.
The Americans, most from a pair of Baptist churches in Idaho, have denied accusations of child trafficking. They said they were only in Haiti to rescue child survivors of the quake. However, reporters later learned several of the children had living parents. In some cases, parents said they gave their children away to the missionaries in the hope that they would have better lives elsewhere.
Separately on Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged $400 million in aid for Haiti.
Despite the latest aid commitment, though, the relief effort came under fire from John Holmes, the top humanitarian relief coordinator at the United Nations. In an email obtained by Foreign Policy, Holmes scolds the agency for not acting fast enough to provide survivors with basic essentials such as water, shelter and latrines.
As Holmes writes:
“Despite the untiring efforts of so many people, we are still struggling to provide enough basic assistance in some vital areas to Haitians affected by the earthquake, many of whom remain in life-threatening situations. We can scale our efforts up further and we must do so urgently.”