Haitian judge weighs new charge for Silsby
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)--Laura Silsby, the last of 10 Baptist missions volunteers detained in Haiti on suspicion of kidnapping, now faces a new charge.
Silsby, who led the team, now is accused of attempting to take 40 children out of Haiti without proper paperwork on Jan. 26, three days before the 10-member team was prevented from crossing the border into the Dominican Republic with 33 children.
Haitian Judge Bernard Saint-Vil announced the additional charge of "organizing irregular travel" March 12. He had released the ninth team member, Charisa Coulter, March 8 after more than five weeks in jail. The other team members were freed Feb. 18.
The new charge is based on information provided by a Haitian official who said he prevented the Jan. 26 incident after being alerted by a concerned citizen about a bus loaded with Haitian children, news services reported. The official asked not to be identified, claiming fear of reprisal.
The new charge is based on a 1980 travel law implemented by Haiti's dictator at the time, Jean-Claude Duvalier, the Associated Press reported. It carries a penalty of three to six years imprisonment. The judge said he has until early May to decide whether to release Silsby or order a trial.
The 10 volunteers were arrested Jan. 29 for trying to take 33 children out of the earthquake-ravaged country to a makeshift orphanage in the Dominican Republic. They allegedly did not have the proper paperwork.
Both Silsby and Coulter are members of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho. The other group members were Carla Thompson and Nicole and Corinna Lankford, also of Central Valley Baptist Church; Paul Thompson, his son Silas and Steve McMullen of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho; Jim Allen of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas; and Drew Culberth of Bethel Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. Bethel Baptist is the only church not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.