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2 Baptists in Haiti won’t be freed this week

PORT-AU-PRINCE (BP)–The Haiti judge overseeing the case of two jailed Baptist volunteers said Thursday the women won’t be released this week and that he wants to obtain more testimony from others.

The news comes two days after the judge told Reuters the women — Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter — could be freed this week and that he had not found any wrongdoing. That still may happen, but apparently not this week.

The Associated Press Thursday quoted Judge Bernard Saint-Vil as saying he wants to, in the words of AP, ask “two real estate agents and a pastor from the Dominican Republic to testify in Port-au-Prince about property” the women “rented to set up an orphanage.” He also wants to ask questions of a pastor “and another man” from a border town, AP reported. Saint-Vil said he expects to rule on the case next week.

He told Reuters on Tuesday, “We haven’t found anything that could suggest wrongdoing on the part of the Americans” and that “they could be released this week.”

Silsby and Coulter are members of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho. They and eight other Baptist volunteers were arrested Jan. 29 on charges of child kidnapping and criminal association when they tried to take 33 children out of the earthquake-ravaged country and to a makeshift orphanage in the Dominican Republic. They allegedly did not have the proper paperwork.

The other eight team members were released from jail Feb. 18 and are back in the United States. Saint-Vil kept Silsby and Coulter in jail because he had further questions for them.

Silsby and the others have said they simply were trying to help the children.

The freed group members are Carla Thompson and Nicole and Corinna Lankford of Central Valley Baptist; 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.
Compiled by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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