Haitian lawyer for US Baptists denies bribe claim

THE Haitian lawyer for 10 US Baptists charged with child kidnapping tried to bribe the missionaries’ way out of jail and has been fired, the attorney who hired him has said.

The Haitian lawyer, Edwin Coq, denied the allegation. He said the $60,000 (€43,000) he requested from the Americans’ families was his fee.

Jorge Puello, the attorney in Dominican Republic retained by relatives of the 10 American missionaries after their arrest last week, told reporters 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 reporters that he was working for no fee.

Puello said Coq initially requested $10,000 but kept asking for 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 on Thursday with child kidnapping and criminal association for trying to take 33 children out of Haiti without proper documents.

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

Coq said on 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.

Asked if Silsby had deceived the other nine Baptists by assuring them she had the proper papers, Puello said on Saturday, “I believe that is true”.

NBC News reported some of the missionaries handed an NBC producer a note through bars of their holding cell earlier in the day.

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

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