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Haiti judge orders release of 8 US missionaries charged with kidnapping

[JURIST] A Haitian judge on Wednesday ordered the release of eight of the 10 US missionaries held in a Haitian jail on kidnapping charges [JURIST report] in the wake of the January 12 earthquake [JURIST news archive]. Eight of the 10 members of the missionary group, affiliated with the Central Valley Baptist Church [official website] of Idaho and the New Life Children's Refuge Charity [BBC profile], were released without bail [AP report] Wednesday and flown overnight to Miami on an American military cargo plane. The eight were allowed to leave Haiti after the children's parents testified [Guardian report] that they voluntarily handed over the children to the missionaries because they were promised a better life. The two others, Laura Silsby [AP profile] and Charisa Coulter remain in custody while they are questioned by Judge Bernard Saint-Vil about their plan to take Haitian children out of the country to the neighboring Dominican republic without adoption certificates. Saint-Vil said the two others were being held because they been to Haiti prior to the earthquake [NYT report].

Saint-Vil had said last week that that would recommend [JURIST report] a provisional release pending an investigation. Even as American and Haitian lawyers worked toward their release last week, it was reported that the eight released missionaries accused [NYT report] Silsby and Coulter of misleading them. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake caused massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti, and the death toll has now been estimated at more than 200,000.

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