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Haiti judge orders release of US missionary charged with kidnapping

[JURIST] A Haitian judge on Monday ordered the release of one 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]. The judge announced last month that both missionaries would be released, following the release [JURIST reports] of the other eight members of the missionary group affiliated with the Central Valley Baptist Church [church website] of Idaho and the New Life Children's Refuge Charity [BBC profile]. Charisa Coulter was released from prison Monday, while Laura Silsby, the group's leader remains behind bars. Silsby and Coulter have 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. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake caused massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti, and the death toll has been estimated at 230,000.

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