Tuesday, February 2, 2010

U.S. missionaries go before judge in Haiti child case | Reuters

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - JANUARY 13:  An injure...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

  • "The missionaries were arrested on Friday trying to cross into the Dominican Republic from Haiti with a busload of 33 children they said were orphaned by the January 12 quake. They denied charges they were engaged in child trafficking, insisting they were trying to help vulnerable orphans. Haitian police have said some of the children have living parents. The case could be diplomatically sensitive at a time when the United States is spearheading a huge relief effort to help hundreds of thousands of Haitian quake victims, and as U.S. aid groups pour millions of dollars of donations into Haiti. The five missionaries were questioned behind closed doors at Haiti's judicial police headquarters in Port-au-Prince, where they are being held behind bars. They were escorted from their cells by uniformed Haitian National Police officers to a separate room where the judge awaited along with a clerk and a translator. "I heard five of them. Then I will hear the other five tomorrow," Judge Ezaie Pierre-Louis said. "After the hearing tomorrow, I will make a report to the prosecutor, then he will decide what he does next." Communications Minister Marie-Laurence Lassegue said the missionaries did not have lawyers present. One of the missionaries, a woman, was returned to the police building on Tuesday after being treated at a hospital for hypertension. Before the hearing, prosecutor Mazarre Fortil said authorities were in the preliminary stages of the investigation. "I am here to hear the Americans, to know more about the case, about what were their intentions," he said. "We are looking deeper into what happened to determine the next steps." SOME PARENTS GAVE UP CHILDREN Haitian authorities have repeatedly expressed concerns that child traffickers could prey on children in the chaos that followed the earthquake that killed up to 200,000 people."

    tags: missionaries, Haiti, trafficking

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