Silsby to face trial in Haiti; charges dropped against nine missionaries

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A Haiti judge dropped kidnapping and criminal association charges against jailed volunteer Laura Silsby and nine others April 26 but ordered Silsby to face trial on another charge, meaning she will remain in prison.

CNN reported that Judge Bernard Saint-Vil ordered Silsby to face trial on an "arranging irregular travel" charge, which carries a sentence for those convicted of six months to three years in prison.

But CNN said Saint-Vil dropped all charges against the other nine volunteer missionaries, all of whom were previously released and allowed to fly back to the United States with charges still pending.

The ten were arrested Jan. 30 because they allegedly did not have the proper documents to cross the border and take 33 children to an orphanage being set up in the Dominican Republic. The group said they had the documents Haiti officials told them to have. Saving children orphaned by the earthquake, they said, was their goal.

Paul Thompson, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, who was one of the 10 arrested, expressed frustration that Silsby will face trial, saying "all nine of us were with Laura on the days" she allegedly broke the irregular travel law.

"If I'm innocent of irregular travel, then Laura Silsby is innocent of irregular travel," Thompson told Baptist Press.

More than 100 people — including some from the group of 10 — rallied on the steps of the Idaho state capital April 24 in support of Silsby. Much of the rally was spent in prayer for her.

"It's just a huge blessing to be here with God's people to remember her," Nicole Lankford, who spent nearly three weeks in jail with Silsby, told KTVB-TV at the rally. "The church, not just here, but in America, is standing up and doing what we're called to do in praying for her and remembering her."

Another member of the group, Charisa Coulter, also attended the rally. After eight group members were released Feb. 18, Coulter and Silsby remained in jail together until March 8, when Coulter was released. Coulter called leaving Silsby alone in jail "one of the hardest days of my entire life."

"She's always on my mind," Coulter told the TV station. "It's like a rollercoaster, you have highs and you have lows."

April 26 was Silsby's 87th day in jail.

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