Eight of the 10 American
detainees in Haiti arrived in Miami, Fla., early today.
They arrived at Miami
International Airport shortly after midnight on a U.S. Air Force cargo plane.
None of them spoke to reporters about their ordeal.
“Faith means everything to
me and I knew this moment would come when the truth would set me free,” said
Jim Allen, a welder from Amarillo, Texas, in a statement.
A judge in Haiti released
the eight on bail Wednesday. They did not have to post bond to leave but had to
promise to return if needed during the investigation.
Bernard Saint-Vil said two
volunteers will not be freed, the Reuters News Service reported. Laura Silsby,
the group’s leader, and Charisa Coulter are being kept for further
CNN reported that Coulter, who is diabetic, was taken to a field hospital “in a
lot of pain.” Friends and family members of the detainees had expressed concern
during the three-week detention about the volunteers’ access to health care.
Jorge Puello, who had stepped forward as a presumed legal adviser in the
Dominican Republic on behalf of some of the Americans, reportedly now is being
pursued by U.S. Marshals as well as authorities in El Salvador.
Puello called the Associated Press Feb. 16 and said he was in Panama preparing
to return to El Salvador to face charges for leading a ring that lured young
girls and women into prostitution. He also acknowledged he is named in a 2003
federal indictment in Vermont that accuses him of smuggling illegal immigrants
from Canada into the United States, AP said.
Saint-Vil, however, had stated that Puello’s legal problems are separate from
the child kidnapping charges that were leveled against the 10 Americans.
One of the Americans on Tuesday denied any connection to Puello.
AP said Puello, 32, is identified as Jorge Torres in the Vermont indictment and
managed to avoid arrest because he was living in Canada at the time. The United
States requested extradition, and Puello fled.
The AP report also noted that Puello was convicted of theft of U.S. government
property in 1999 in Pennsylvania and sentenced to six months in prison and five
years probation, and in 2001 a court found he violated the terms of his
probation and issued a warrant for his arrest.
After the Americans were detained Jan. 29, Puello contacted their relatives by
calling their church, Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, AP
Before he initiated the call, he had never met any of them. In subsequent
days, Puello reportedly delivered food and medicine to the prisoners and helped
them find a Haitian lawyer, whom he later fired.
Puello was born in the United States but has strong ties to the Dominican
Republic, AP said, and authorities in El Salvador noted his resemblance to the
suspect in a sex trafficking case in their country after seeing him portrayed
as representing the Americans.
confirmed during an eight-minute phone call with his wife Feb. 16 that he had
no contact with Puello.
“I have never heard from that guy, never seen him, never spoke to him, never
met him,” Allen said. “I don’t even know who he is.”
Louis Gary Lissade, a former Haitian minister of justice, is representing Allen
with help from a team of attorneys in the United States including Liberty Legal
Institute, which conveyed information from the phone call in a news release the
Allen’s wife Lisa said that during the call he was in good spirits, joked about
having lost a few pounds and expressed confidence in Haitian officials to set
him free, the news release said.
Liberty Legal Institute, based in Plano, Texas, filed a motion Feb. 10 seeking
the release of Allen, a small business owner and construction worker who is a
member of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo.
Kelly Shackelford, Liberty’s chief counsel, said Allen “is an upstanding
American with a good heart trying to rebuild a country. We believe that when
the facts of this case are revealed, our client will be released. We’re working
hard to make that happen.”
Allen reportedly had been invited by a cousin to join the volunteer team and
had “joined the team 48 hours before the group’s departure.”
His wife has
expressed concern about his well-being in prison since he suffers from a
medical condition for which he takes medication, Liberty said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly and
staff writer Erin Roach.)