The leader of 10 U.S. Baptist missionaries charged in Haiti with child kidnapping maintained the group's innocence and said they face "a very challenging and confusing legal process here," during an exclusive jail cell interview with CBS News.
(CBS) The leader of 10 U.S. Baptist missionaries charged in Haiti with child kidnapping maintained the group's innocence and said they face "a very challenging and confusing legal process here," during an exclusive jail cell interview with CBS News.
"We have in no way wanted to disrespect the Haitian government," Laura Silsby told CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker. "We have tried our best to comply with all that they have asked us to do. We have faced a very challenging and confusing legal process here."
The missionaries, consisting mostly of members from two Idaho churches, face kidnapping charges for trying to take 33 children out of the country without proper documentation. While the group's stated mission was to rescue abandoned children and orphans, at least 22 of the children had parents.
Each member of the group has been charged with one count of kidnapping, which could result in in five to 15 years in prison. They also face charges of criminal association, which carry three- to nine-year sentence.
After seven days in jail, they haven't been able to call their families in the U.S. even once, reports Whitaker.
"We have not in any way trafficked or kidnapped children. We came here out of love in our hearts for these children and have done our best to help them," Silsby said. "Once we were asked at the border to provide an additional piece of paperwork for the Haitian government, we willingly complied.
"I was willing to come back the very next morning at 6:00 a.m. to complete it and the children were going to remain there until I returned. But instead, they came with [an] armed guard and took us to the police station for interrogation and held us on charges … on false charges."
Phillip Snyder, a Michigan aid volunteer who delivers food and water to the Americans in jail, said the group is trying to stay upbeat.
"But they're very confused about issues such as Haitian law and why their attorney, who's been appointed to them, doesn't speak English," he said.
Only CBS News caught the Americans arriving at court Friday. Behind closed doors, a Haitian judge questioned them one by one. Outside, their lawyer, Edwin Coq, admitted communicating is difficult.
"I understand a little English, but I don't speak any English," Coq said in Creole.
Silsby calls the whole process confusing.
"Our hearts are heavy, because we know we have not done what is being charged against us and we just want … the truth to be revealed."