Welcome return for US citizens freed by Haiti court
Published 20/02/2010 | 05:00
CORINNA Lankford's ordeal in Haiti ended yesterday as her family engulfed her at a US airport. She was one of eight Baptist missionaries -- including her sister Nicole -- freed after three weeks in custody in Haiti on child-trafficking charges.
They had been accused in the aftermath of last month's earthquake. Two women are left behind in a Port-au-Prince jail. They have repeatedly denied the charges.
Ms Lankford said she had no regrets. "I think God's still in control and it's going to go just like God planned it," she said.
The two women who remain in custody, Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter, were questioned by a judge yesterday in Port-au-Prince about their plans to set up an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.
The judge said he would not release them because they had previously visited Haiti in December and planned to open an orphanage even before the quake. After the earthquake, Ms Silsby rushed to pull together the rest of the group. They were caught on January 29 trying to take 33 children out of Haiti without adoption certificates. Their arrests came as officials urged a halt to shortcut adoptions.
Ms Silsby originally said the children were orphans or had been abandoned. But The Associated Press determined that at least 20 had been handed over willingly by their parents, who said the Baptists promised to educate their kids in the US and let them visit their families.
The fact that the children had been given up voluntarily helped persuade the judge to free the eight without bail on Wednesday. They were released on the understanding that they would return to Haiti if the judge requested it. However, he didn't dismiss the child-trafficking charges against them.
The group argued throughout that the trip was a do-it-yourself "rescue mission" to take child victims of the devastating earthquake to a hastily prepared orphanage in the Dominican Republic.