[JURIST] A Haitian judge on Tuesday announced the forthcoming release of the last two US missionaries out of a group of 10 who were arrested on kidnapping charges [JURIST report] following the January 12 earthquake [JURIST news archive]. Eight 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 [JURIST report] last week. Laura Silsby, who is the leader of the group, and her assistant Charisa Coulter met with Judge Bernard Sainvil, who told [Reuters report] reporters that the women would be freed because there was no evidence of a crime. Silsby and Coulter had consistently denied any wrongdoing and said they only sought to help children who were suffering after the quake.
The Americans were charged [JURIST report] in connection with their attempt to take 33 children across the Haitian border into the Dominican Republic, where the group stated they hoped to start an orphanage. Haitian authorities asserted, however, that many of the children were not orphans, but had been given up by their parents when the missionaries promised a better life for the children. The 10 were each charged with one count of kidnapping and one count of criminal association. 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 230,000.