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Former jailed Baptist says if he’s innocent, Silsby is, too

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)–A Baptist pastor who spent nearly three weeks in a Haiti jail says it “makes no sense” for him and eight other volunteers to be freed while the group’s 10th member and group leader, Laura Silsby, remains in jail.

Paul Thompson, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, made the comments one week after reports first circulated that all charges had been dropped against the nine freed Americans. Haiti officials quickly denied the reports, saying the charges still stood.

The 10 were arrested in late January and charged with child kidnapping, allegedly because they did not have the proper documents to take 33 children to an orphanage being started in the Dominican Republic. The group says they had the paperwork Haiti officials told them to have.

Although Thompson and eight others were released and allowed to fly back to the United States, the charges technically still stood when they left the earthquake-ravaged country.

“I’m not satisfied until Laura is released,” Thompson told Baptist Press. “What I’ve been telling everyone around her is that if Paul Thompson is innocent, then Laura Silsby is innocent.”

In mid-April Kyle Hines, a spokesman for Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, told CNN he had been told by the U.S. State Department that the charges of child kidnapping were dropped. The Associated Press quoted a lawyer in Haiti who also said the charges were dropped.

But Haiti, led by its attorney general, denied the reports. Another Haitian official, Judge Bernard Saint-Vil — the presiding judge in the case — told AP no decision had been made.

Thompson said he doesn’t really know what to make of the conflicting reports, although he is confident the charges will be dropped.

“The word we got from Sen. Risch’s office is the charges have been dropped, and until he hears differently he stands by the news they got from the State Department,” Thompson said, speculating that semantics may have played a role and that Haiti may have told someone the charges “would be dropped” instead of “have been dropped.”

Regarding the fact that he is free and Silsby entered her 84th straight day in jail Friday, Thompson said, “It makes no sense.”

Silsby is a member of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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