Remaining 2 Baptist Volunteers Held in Haiti to be Released

| by Baptist Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- The two Baptist volunteers still in jail in Haiti will be freed and possibly could be released this week, the judge overseeing the case says.

"We haven't found anything that could suggest wrongdoing on the part of the Americans," Judge Bernard Saint-Vil told Reuters Thursday.

"I think they could be released this week," he added.

Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter, members of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, have been in jail since Jan. 29, when they and eight of their team members were arrested 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. Saint-Vil kept Silsby and Coulter in jail because he had further questions for them.

"The case will be over this week because we have no criminal grounds to pursue it," Saint-Vil told Reuters after questioning Silsby and Coulter.

"Thank you for helping to reveal the truth," Silsby told Saint-Vil. She told Reuters, "I hope we will be released because we did nothing wrong."

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.