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Haiti court convicts US missionary in orphan smuggling case

A Haitian court on Monday convicted US missionary Laura Silsby of attempting to illegally smuggle 33 Haitian children to the US through the Dominican Republic in the wake of the January 12 earthquake [JURIST news archive]. Silsby was found guilty of irregular travel [JURIST report] and sentenced to time served during judicial proceedings. At the opening of trial proceedings on Thursday, Haitian prosecutors claimed that Silsby knew she was breaking the law [AP report] when she attempted to take the children into the Dominican Republic and requested a six-month prison term [JURIST report]. The court agreed with the prosecution's allegations, but denied the request for additional prison time. Silsby has been released and is now permitted to leave the country and return home to Idaho.

Silsby was the only one to face trial of a group of 10 missionaries affiliated with the Central Valley Baptist Church [church website] of Idaho and the New Life Children's Refuge Charity [BBC profile] who were arrested [JURIST report] in January. A Haitian judge ordered the release of eight missionaries in February and then ordered the release of a ninth [JURIST reports] in March. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake caused massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti, and the death toll has been estimated at 230,000.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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