Colleagues of ten American Baptist missionaries arrested for child trafficking in Haiti say it’s all a big misunderstanding, but the Haitian government isn’t mincing words on the issue.
“For me, it’s not Americans that were arrested, it was kidnappers,” said Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.
Ten Americans, five men and five women, were arrested Friday as they attempted to leave Haiti and enter the Dominican Republic with 33 children they say are orphans who need help in the wake of the January 12 earthquake. But ABC News reports that some of the children say they’re not orphans at all, and have provided the names and addresses of their parents.
The children range in age from two months to 12 years old.
Yves Christallin, Haiti’s social affairs and labor minister, said the Americans are suspected of being part of an illegal adoption scheme.
Five of the missionaries belong to the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho. On its Web site, the church states that the missionaries were “falsely arrested” as they attempted to take orphans from a number of orphanages that were damaged in the quake.
Speaking on ABC’s Good Morning America, the church’s pastor, Rev. Clint Henry, said he knew nothing of the allegations that some of the children weren’t orphans.
“The last that I knew is that we were working with a pastor who was dealing with an orphanage there. … The stories I’m hearing from the [children] themselves are just as much a surprise to me as anyone else,” Henry said.
“It certainly was never any intention of ours to do anything that might cause trouble” for the efforts to rescue orphaned children, Henry told ABC’s Robin Roberts.
— With Agence France-Presse
This video is from ABC’s Good Morning America, broadcast Feb. 1, 2010.