Haitian prosecutors on Thursday requested a six-month prison term for a US missionary accused of illegally trying to remove 33 children from the country in the wake of the January 12 earthquake [JURIST news archive]. Prosecutors claimed that Laura Silsby knew she was breaking the law [AP report] when she attempted to take the children into the Dominican Republic. At the opening of her trial Thursday, Silsby testified that she believed all of the children were orphans whose parents were killed in the earthquake. It was later revealed that all but one of the children had at least one living parent. Silsby was originally charged with kidnapping, but that charge was later reduced to irregular travel [JURIST reports], which carries a prison term of six months to three years. A verdict is expected within a few days.
Silsby is the only one to face trial of a group of 10 missionaries affiliated with the Central Valley Baptist Church [church website] of Idaho and the New Life Children's Refuge Charity [BBC profile] who were arrested [JURIST report] in January. A Haitian judge ordered the release of eight missionaries in February and then ordered the release of a ninth in March. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake caused massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti, and the death toll has been estimated at 230,000.