10 U.S. Baptists Charged With Child Abduction in Haiti
The 10 Americans detained in Haiti after getting caught trying to smuggle 33 kids across the border have been formally charged with child abduction. The Haitian Deputy Prosecutor told the Americans that their case was being sent to an investigative judge who ” … can free you but he can also continue to hold you for further proceedings,” according to Reuters.
The Americans continue to deny wrongdoing, claiming they were merely trying to help kids orphaned by the earthquake, or abandoned by their families in its aftermath. Laura Silsby, who heads the group, said to AFP, “We came here literally to just help the children. Our intentions were good.”
But according to the aid group now caring for the children, many of the kids said they have parents who are still alive. On the Today Show Tuesday, the group’s CEO stated that parents were coming to reclaim their children.
Several of the parents claimed that the group told them their kids would be attending school in the Dominican Republic, and would be free to return to Haiti to visit their parents. In fact, the group planned to transport the kids to an orphanage in the neighboring country, where they would be in line for adoption.
The Americans were detained amidst rising fears in Haiti of child abduction following the catastrophic earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands and leveled the country’s infrastructure. The Haitian government imposed a temporary moratorium on adoptions, citing concerns that kids separated from living families would be snatched up for international adoption. (U.N. guidelines recommend that two years be spent searching for the child’s family members before they’re deemed an orphan eligible for international adoption).
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed in on the case, saying “”It was unfortunate that, whatever the motivation, that this group of Americans took matters into their own hands.” The group had not previously run an orphanage and was not registered as an adoption agency or a non-profit.
According to the NY Times, the charges carry prison terms of up to 15 years.