Video: Americans in Haiti jail: ‘We fear for our lives’

  1. Closed captioning of: Americans in Haiti jail: ‘We fear for our lives’

    >>> from haiti and what some of those americans under arrest for kidnapping are saying tonight to us from their jail cell in port-au-prince in a scribbled note. nbc 's kerry sanders joins us now from haiti with the latest developments. kerry , good evening.

    >> reporter: well, good evening, lester . i visited the ten missionaries in jail today, and the haitian guards let us go right up to the bars and talk to them as long as we didn't have cameras this time. so we chatted with them. i was with an nbc producer. we chatted for about ten minutes. and during our conversation one of those slipped a revealing note to nbc producer don wood. the note, scribbled on a scrap of paper, says, "we fear for our lives here in haiti . there is corruption and extortion." then this -- " laura wants to control. we believe lying. we're afraid." laura would be laura silsby, the spokesperson for the jailed americans. she organized the trip to haiti and initially told government officials here she had permission if not documents to adopt 33 children in the wake of the earthquake. when i recently visited the ten in jail, she was the only one to speak on their behalf.

    >> you know, we don't have full details yet. we're waiting to know. all we know is god is going to bring this to a positive closure, and we're just waiting for that answer.

    >> is there an apology to be made by you to this government?

    >> no. we are meeting with the government officials and talking with them. everything is going very well.

    >> reporter: she has repeatedly said the group is trusting in god, as she did when i talked to her after a court hearing this week.

    >> i feel good. i'm trusting god.

    >> reporter: what is the outcome? what is the outcome? can you tell us what the outcome is?

    >> reporter: a haitian defense attorney hired to represent the ten says he too believes nine of the ten missionaries had no idea what was going on and that the adoption documents never existed. that scribbled note goes on to say, "please, you must listen. we have no way to call. court will not let us have a say with anything about truth for us. we only came as volunteers. we had nothing to do with any documents and have been lied to." the note has eight of the ten missionaries' names listed. missing are laura silsby and her close aid, karissa coulter. we contacted laura silsby's sister, kim barton. she said, "i don't foe what to say." we spoke to a family member of another name that is listed. they told us they have known for some time in idaho about division within the group. lester ?

    >> kerry , i know when they were first taken into custody that u.s. representatives from the embassy were being allowed visits. have those continued, or have they been halted?

    >> reporter: they have had consular services. even when they were in court, they have been advised on perhaps hiring a lawyer. they decided not to hire the lawyer that the consulate suggested they go with. they hired edwin clark . and we're hearing tonight on monday the ten may fire him and hire another attorney from the united states , lester .

    >> extraordinary developments in this story. kerry , thank you very much.

    >>> more than 250,000 toyota prius

updated 2/6/2010 11:21:20 PM ET 2010-02-07T04:21:20

The Haitian lawyer for 10 U.S. Baptists charged with child kidnapping tried to bribe the missionaries' way out of jail and has been fired, the attorney who hired him said Saturday night.

The Haitian lawyer, Edwin Coq, denied the allegation. He said the $60,000 he requested from the Americans' families was his fee.

Jorge Puello, the attorney in the neighboring Dominican Republic retained by relatives of the 10 American missionaries after their arrest last week, told The Associated Press that he fired Coq on Friday night. He had hired Coq to represent the detainees at Haitian legal proceedings.

Coq orchestrated "some kind of extortion with government officials" that would have led to the release of nine of the 10 missionaries, Puello charged.

"He had some people inside the court that asked him for money, and he was part of this scheme," Puello said.

Coq denied the requested $60,000 payment amounted to a bribe.

"I have worked for 10 people for four days working all hours," he said. "Look at what hour I'm working now, responding to these calls. I have the right to this money."

On Friday, Coq had told the AP that he was working for no fee.

Asking for more?
Puello said Coq initially requested $10,000 but kept asking for bigger and bigger amounts. He said that when Coq reached $60,000, he said he could guarantee it would lead to the Americans' release.

A magistrate charged the group's members Thursday with child kidnapping and criminal association for trying to take 33 children out of earthquake-ravaged Haiti without the proper documents.

The Americans said they were a humanitarian mission to rescue orphans after Haiti's catastrophic Jan. 12 quake.

But at least 20 of the children had living parents. Some told the AP they gave the kids to the group because the missionaries promised to educate them at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic and said they would allow parents to visit.

Coq said Thursday that the group's leader, Laura Silsby of Meridian, Idaho, deceived the others by telling them she had the proper documents to remove the children from Haiti.

Warnings to leader
Puello raised similar concerns. He told the AP that he warned Silsby on Friday, the day the group was detained at the border, that she lacked the required papers and risked being arrested for child trafficking.

Asked if Silsby had deceived the other nine Baptists in assuring them she had the proper papers, Puello said, "I believe that is true."

He referred further questions on that issue to Sean Lankford, also of Meridian and the husband and father of two of the jailed missionaries.

Reached by the AP on Saturday night, Lankford would not comment. "I don't have time right now to talk to you," he said.

NBC News reported Saturday that there are divisions within the jailed group.

It said some of the missionaries handed an NBC producer a note through bars of their holding cell earlier in the day that listed the names of all of them but Silsby and her former nanny and partner in the orphanage, Charisa Coulter.

"We only came as volunteers. We had nothing to do with any documents and have been lied to," NBC quoted the note as saying. "Please we fear our lives."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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