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Lawyer seeks release of U.S. missionaries in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Ten U.S. Baptist missionaries charged with child kidnapping should be allowed to leave the country pending the outcome of their case, their Haitian lawyer argued before a judge Friday.

Before the closed hearing, defense attorney Edwin Coq told reporters he would ask the judge to grant the detainees "provisional release," a type of bail without money posted.

Late in the day, the Americans were pushed into a waiting police van outside the courthouse and driven away. None answered reporters' shouted questions. Asked if they had been told not to speak, the group's leader, Laura Silsby, nodded. Asked if she thought they would be released, she nodded again.

An investigating judge charged the Americans on Thursday with kidnapping for trying to take 33 children across the border into the Dominican Republic on Jan. 29 without documentation.

No trial date has been set.

Coq said Silsby knew she couldn't take the youngsters without proper paperwork. The other nine, he said, were innocents caught up in actions they didn't understand.

"Obviously, this is a matter for the Haitian judicial system," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday.

Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, now a special U.N. envoy for Haiti relief, met with Haitian President Rene Preval in Port-au-Prince Friday, but said his visit had nothing to do with the detained Americans. He did say, however, that Washington was monitoring their welfare.

2 Floridians killed in copter crash

Pilot John Ward, 43, of Fort Myers and co-pilot James Jalovec, 53, of Naples, who were contributing to aid efforts in Haiti, were killed when their helicopter crashed into a mountain in neighboring Dominican Republic on Thursday, officials and family members said Friday.

Haitians return to capital: Government and international officials say a half-million Haitians who fled shattered Port-au-Prince after the Jan. 12 earthquake are starting to return to a maze of rubble piles, refugee camps and food lines, complicating plans to rebuild.

Associated Press

Lawyer seeks release of U.S. missionaries in Haiti 02/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 5, 2010 11:37pm]
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