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Americans held in Haiti denied conditional release

Ten American Christians charged in Haiti with child kidnapping and conspiracy were denied conditional release Friday and sent to jail to await trial, their lawyer told AFP.

"The judge did not accept the request for conditional release," said Edwin Coq, lawyer for the group that was detained a week ago for trying to smuggle a group of 33 children out of Haiti into the Dominican Republic.

Sitting in the prosecutor’s office the 10 could be seen looking dejected after having previously been held in a police detention center.

On their departure one of the women, Laura Silsby, was asked what was going on. "We just don't know, we just don't know," she replied.

It later became clear that the 10 had been remanded in custody.

"The judge passed down two detention orders, one for the group of five men, who will be held at the national prison, and another for the five women who will be held at Petionville women's prison."

The national prison in Port-au-Prince held 4,000 inmates before it was badly damaged in the massive earthquake that devastated the city on January 12.

Hearings are planned for next week, said Coq, who had petitioned for the group to be released pending their trial which could take months to prepare.

The group, from an Idaho-based charity, were formally charged with "kidnapping minors and criminal association" on Thursday.

They have denied any ill intentions, saying they were merely trying to help children orphaned and abandoned by the January 12 quake.

If convicted, they face up to nine years in prison on child kidnapping charges and further jail time for conspiracy.

Because of continued chaos in the Haitian capital, questions have been raised about whether the group would face a fair trial.

But with tens of thousands of children still homeless on the streets of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian government is under pressure to clamp down on any potential abuse.

The country's Justice Minister Paul Denis has insisted they should be brought before Haitian courts, instead of being returned to the United States.

"It is Haitian law that has been violated," Justice Minister Paul Denis told AFP. "It is up to the Haitian authorities to hear and judge the case. I don't see any reason why they should be tried in the United States."


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