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Haiti judge frees 8 missionaries, keeps 2

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Carlos Barria/Reuters

(Read caption) Nicole Lankford (r.), one of the 10 Americans who were arrested while trying to bus children out of Haiti without proper documents, smiles as she leaves a police station in Port-au-Prince Wednesday. Eight American missionaries left a Haitian jail on Wednesday after a judge signed an order freeing them.

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A Haitian judge decided today to continue detaining two American missionaries, while freeing the other eight in the group held since Jan. 29 on accusations they kidnapped 33 children in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

“I am extremely disturbed that two of the missionaries are being left behind,” says Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, which has been lobbying the Haitian government on the missionaries’ behalf. “They operated as a group, they worked as a group – it almost seems punitive or some kind of a payback to hold two and release the eight.”

Charisa Coulter and Laura Silsby, the financially troubled leader of the group, are being kept for further investigation, Judge Bernard Sainvil said. It was unclear if they still faced charges of child abduction and criminal conspiracy, which can carry prison terms of up to 15 years.

“Eight of my clients will be set free,” lawyer Aviol Fleurant told AFP. “The judge wants to question two of my clients because they were in Haiti before the earthquake.”

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