Nightly News   |  February 02, 2010

U.S. prosecution of detained Haiti missionaries possible

The Haitian prime minister said Tuesday it's now clear that the 10 American missionaries accused of trying to transport children across the border illegally knew what they were doing was wrong-- something they deny. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

Share This:

This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now we move to the latest on those Americans arrested for, as they tell it, trying to get children out to a better life . There are some new twists in this strange story tonight. NBC 's Michelle Kosinski again with us tonight from Port -au-Prince. Michelle , good evening.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI reporting: Good evening, Brian . A judge met with some of those Americans today, but their lawyer was not allowed in. And there's still no decision as to whether they will be charged with attempted child trafficking . The Haitian prime minister says it's now clear that they knew what they were doing was wrong, something they deny. The Americans held in a Haitian jail are finally getting their time before a judge.

Unidentified Woman: We are meeting with the government officials and talking with them. Everything is going very well.

KOSINSKI: Their families worried sick in Idaho . Unidentified Man #1: We are doing everything, everything we can to secure their release.

KOSINSKI: Eric Thompson says his wife only wanted to help.

Mr. ERIC THOMPSON: Her life is centered around those children , and she'd give her life for them.

KOSINSKI: The group of Baptist missionaries say they were transporting 33 children , including infants, these two sisters, 13-year-old Shesnair and his three siblings, from orphanages in Haiti to a new one they had prepared in the Dominican Republic . But along the way this human rights activist told the UN she had met group leader Laura Silsby and warned her that her plan as it stood could be against the law. Ms. ANNE-CHRISTINE D'ADESKY : You need to be very careful. You could get arrested and you really don't want to end up in jail, in a Haitian jail, especially.

KOSINSKI: The Americans claim all surviving parents gave their consent, something the families' neighbors also explained. Unidentified Man #2: Some of them lost their houses, OK, so they expect to have a better life .

KOSINSKI: Some of the parents have come here to the refuge where the Haitian government has placed the 33, but they are not, for now, allowed to see their own children .

Mr. GEORG WILLEIT (SOS Children's Villages): It's still unclear why have these children been on the bus, why did the parents give them away.

KOSINSKI: Shesnair , a protective big brother , says he knew he was going away permanently and that he wanted to go with nice people to a nice place where he could play, waiting for a decision as to whether the foreigners who said they wanted to save him will themselves be punished. The issue here was a lack of proper documentation. Now the UN and other organizations are working on creating this database that would track children , not only to prevent trafficking, but also to reunite children with their parents. Brian :

WILLIAMS: Michelle Kosinski , part of our team in Port-au-Prince, Haiti . Michelle , thanks.