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Charges *NOT* dropped against American Baptist Missionaries, despite Thursday’s reports

Well, it’s early Saturday morning and just when I sit down to write about one of the major events of the last week, we run headlong into yet another example of events moving faster than I can blog.

Last Thursday, as a result of actions taken by the State Department, numerous media outlets reported that the charges against the 9 American Baptist Missionaries arrested in Haiti for attempting to export at least two busloads of Haitian children for potential eventual adoptions had been dropped.

See, Charges dropped against Amarillo man and 8 others arrested in Haiti as but one of many examples.

(Laura Sislby, of course, remains in her jail cell in Haiti.)

The article makes mention of the State Department official who appears to have been part of the chain of events that led to this impression:

“We did get word from the chief of the western hemisphere affairs office at the Department of State, his name is Ted Coley, that the judge down there in Haiti informed the U.S. Embassy today that the charges against nine of the missionaries have been dropped, and no additional charges are expected to be filed against them,” said Bill Harris, senior counsel to Thornberry.

The article also lays out the remaining process on the Haitian end:

“All of the information on the investigation on her has been completed and submitted to the judge,” Harris said. “They (the State Department) said the judge ought to have a recommendation within seven days … it sounds like it’s been progressing.”

The prosecutor in Silsby’s case can recommend additional investigation, or come back with a finding of “guilty” or “not guilty.”

But it appears the American State Department got it wrong.

Despite the resulting statements from U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, U.S. Sen Jim Risch, attorney Caleb Stegall, Rev, Clint Henry, Drew Culberth, and others, Haiti’s  Attorney General Joseph Manes has since clarified, the charges still stand.

Drew Culberth actually sat down for a 14 minute long interview with KTKA on Friday. The video, available here Topeka missionary says closure will only come with final missionary’s release from Haiti goes into a fair amount of detail about how the aftermath of the arrests unfolded from Culberth’s point of view.

At the time of course, he was under the mistaken impression that the charges had been dropped, which was incorrect.

This piece from CNN (from today Sat.) makes it clear that the charges have not been dropped to date, and by Haitian law, cannot be until a the ruling is handed down  Haiti denies charges dropped against American missionaries:

Haiti’s top prosecutor on Friday denied reports that charges have been dropped against nine of the 10 American missionaries accused of kidnapping children after a devastating earthquake hit the nation in January.

Attorney General Joseph Manes was responding to news from the office of U.S. Sen Jim Risch, R-Idaho, whose staff on Thursday said the charges had been dropped against all but one of the Baptist missionaries. Group leader Laura Silsby remains in a Haitian jail. Risch spokesman Kyle Hines said the senator had been contacted by officials at the U.S. State Department, confirming that the kidnapping charges against the other nine were dropped.

However, Manes said that information was “absolutely incorrect.” He said that under Haitian law, all charges against the 10 Americans stand until the examining judge, Bernard Saint-Vil, renders his final decision on whether to proceed to trial.

Risch’s communications director, Brad Hoaglun, said: “We are standing by what we were orginally told by the State Department. We did, however, ask the State Department to reconfirm for us, and we are waiting that response.”

A senior State Department official told CNN Friday the charges were dropped, but deferred questions to Haiti’s government, saying “this was a Haitian decision.”

On Thursday, Saint-Vil could not be reached for comment and Manes declined to respond to CNN’s questions until he could do so in person on Friday.

and

The Rev. Clint Henry of the Central Valley Baptist Church said the missionaries were notified by a State Department e-mail that the charges were dropped and no other charges were pending.

Meanwhile, Manes said his office received the documents pertaining to Saint-Vil’s investigation and that his staff has five days to derive an opinion, which will remain confidential, on whether to move forward on a trial or dismiss the charges. At that point the case will be returned to the judge for a final decision.

In addition to the emails, there were also phone calls from the State Department to Idaho legislators and the missionaries themselves.

This entire affair has had numerous twists and turns, but this latest, apparently sparked by yet more ignorance of Haitian law this time on the level of the American State Department, is pretty darn remarkable.

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