PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — 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
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.