Because hubris ain't no part of pretty. These folks are a straight up trip.
February 10, 2010
Americans Jailed in Haiti Plead for Help From U.S.
By IAN URBINA
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The 10 Americans detained on kidnapping charges are pleading for the United States government to do more on their behalf and for the news media to focus on them less.
“Help us,” one of the detainees, Carla Thompson, said Monday as she lay on a bed in a scorching Port-au-Prince jail cell of about 8 feet by 5 feet, her ankles bandaged from infected mosquito bites. “That’s the message I would give to Mr. Obama and the State Department. Start helping us.”
Sitting on a dirty concrete floor in the cell, another detainee, Corinna Lankford, nodded in agreement, a frustrated look on her face. “I have faith in God,” Ms. Lankford said. “But maybe the U.S. government could help a little more, too.”
“No one is giving us any kind of information about what is going on,” she added.
The detainees, most of them affiliated with Baptist churches in Meridian and Twin Falls, Idaho, arrived in the chaotic days after the Jan. 12 earthquake. They were detained as they tried to take 33 Haitian children whom the Baptists said had been orphaned into the neighboring Dominican Republic.
Some of the children later said they had parents, and Haitian prosecutors have charged the Americans with kidnapping and criminal association. The Americans have said they were on a charity mission.
Asked whether they believed their case had become a distraction to the quake disaster, several of the prisoners became upset.
“Yes, without a doubt,” said Ms. Thompson as she suddenly started to cry.
“We came here to help, and now there is all this attention on us,” Ms. Lankford chimed in as she, too, began to cry.
The investigating judge, Bernard Saint-Vil, questioned the prisoners on Monday and Tuesday and planned to hear from them as a group on Wednesday.
“I want to hear what they thought they were doing,” he said. “I hope to hear from the parents of the younger ones.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told The Associated Press that his country would consider having the Americans transferred and tried in a United States court, since most government buildings in Haiti — including the country’s courts — had been severely damaged in the earthquake.
Mr. Bellerive has suggested the country would not oppose a trial of the Americans in a United States court because of the severe damage to Haiti’s own government buildings, including the courts. American officials have said they intend to let the Haitian justice system take its course. Judge Saint-Vil has said he intends to investigate the case fully.
For Laura Silsby, the leader of the group of Americans, that process began on Monday.
Sitting on a brown tattered couch in Mr. Saint-Vil’s office, she waited to discuss her fate. A Bible lay on her lap, and her hands shook. “I’m nervous,” said Ms. Silsby, 40, furtively glancing at the judge.
In an interview before the judge questioned her, Ms. Silsby said she, too, was frustrated with the level of American government involvement.
“It has mostly been missionaries, not the government, that has been providing us with food and medicine,” she said, adding that one of the prisoners, Charisa Coulter, 24, who is diabetic, was lacking insulin for the first week of her detention. On Sunday, a missionary was allowed to deliver medicine to her.
The Americans said that they were being treated well by guards and other prisoners. They said they were passing the time reading the Bible, napping, praying and snacking on sugared cereal and potato chips provided to them by missionaries.
They also said that they took the children in good faith.
“We were told by officials at the border that we could go back the next day and get the remaining papers,” said Silas Daniel Thompson, 19, as he stood in his cell surrounded by Haitian men.
Ms. Silsby said she was going to do that on behalf of the group, he said, “but then they arrested us before we got the chance.”
Listening attentively from the adjacent cell, Nicole Lankford, 18, the daughter of Corinna Lankford, began shaking her head.
“Our point was to draw attention to the plight of Haitian orphans,” she said. “We came here to help, not to become the story.”
On Tuesday, Reginald Brown, an American lawyer for Jim Allen, one of the detainees, wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, asking her to personally get involved in the case. Mr. Allen is a construction worker from Texas who said he was in Haiti to rebuild orphanages.
“We think it is clear that the unprecedented situation that exists in Haiti now requires a response beyond what would be expected in the ordinary course,” read the letter, which was released by Mr. Brown’s office.
Also on Tuesday, Haitian officials allowed Louis Gary Lissade, a former justice minister in Haiti who is also representing Mr. Allen, to bring a satellite phone into the jail so Mr. Allen could call his wife, Lisa, who was in Dallas, and assure her that he was all right. He said that he was not getting much information about his case, but was optimistic that he would be released as soon as the facts were known.
“I love you, I miss you, we’ll be O.K.,” he was heard telling her. “Don’t worry.”