Feb 10, 2010 6:31 PM by Bea Karnes, News First 5
A Haitian judge has decided to release 10 U.S. missionaries accused of kidnapping 33 children and trying to spirit them out of the earthquake-stricken country, a judicial source told Reuters Wednesday.
However, NBC News reported that no final decision had been made, though it's possible a decision could be made as early as Thursday.
The source told Reuters that the missionaries, who have been in jail since they were stopped at Haiti's border with the Dominican Republic on Jan. 29, could be released as early as Thursday.
"The order will be to release them," the source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. The decision has not yet been made public.
"One thing an investigating judge seeks in a criminal investigation is criminal intentions on the part of the people involved and there is nothing that shows that criminal intention on the part of the Americans," the source said.
The Baptist group, most of whose members are from two Idaho churches, insisted they were rescuing abandoned children and orphans after the Jan. 12 quake.
But at least 22 of the children, ranging in age from 2 to 12, have parents. Some of the parents told The Associated Press they gave them up willingly because the missionaries promised the children a better life.
Each of the missionaries had been charged with one count of kidnapping, which carries a sentence of five to 15 years in prison, and one of criminal association, punishable by three to nine years.