Page last updated at 22:18 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Haiti poised to free last two American missionaries

Laura Silsby (right) and Charisa Coulter appear in court in Haiti, 23 February
The remaining two missionaries appeared in court on Tuesday

A judge in Haiti has said the last two Christian US missionaries being held on suspicion of abducting children after the earthquake may be freed in days.

Bernard Sainvil told Reuters the case, which involves 33 children, should be closed this week because there were no criminal grounds to pursue it.

A lawyer for the two said he thought they would be freed by Thursday.

Eight fellow missionaries were released last week but their leader and her assistant were kept in custody.

Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter were questioned by Judge Sainvil in a courtroom in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Tuesday.

They and the eight others, most of whom are members of a Baptist Church in Idaho, were arrested on charges of trying to take 33 Haitian children out of the country without proper documentation after the devastating earthquake on 12 January.

They have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying they only wanted to help orphans left destitute by the quake.

Many of the children had living parents who admitted turning the children over to the missionaries in the belief they would receive better care in US hands.

Some 230,000 people were killed in the earthquake.

In another development, Haiti handed US officials six orphans its police seized on Saturday as they were about to board a plane for the US.

The children, aged between one and five, were stopped on Saturday after a suspicious crowd of angry Haitians accosted the women escorting them at the airport.

But it was established that all five had been given clearance to depart after a meeting between the US ambassador and Haiti's prime minister, the Associated Press news agency reports.

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