By Joseph Guyler Delva
Port-au-Prince - A Haitian judge said on Thursday he had ruled in favour of the release of 10 US missionaries accused of kidnapping 33 children and trying to take them out of the earthquake-stricken country.
"I just signed the request for the release of the 10 Americans submitted by the lawyers and I have sent it to the prosecutor's office," Judge Bernard Sainvil said.
He earlier told Reuters that once the prosecutor had given his opinion, he could formally issue a release order for the Americans, who have been jailed since they were stopped at Haiti's border with the Dominican Republic on January 29.
Once the release order was issued, "they can go directly to the airport if they want and leave, but they should provide a guarantee of representation if further questions need to be asked," Sainvil said.
Under Haitian law, the prosecutor can formally comment on the judge's decision but he cannot overrule it.
A judicial source told Reuters on Wednesday that Sainvil had decided to free the US missionaries because there had been no evidence demonstrating "criminal intentions" on their part to support charges of child kidnap and criminal association levelled against them.
The missionaries, most of whom belong to an Idaho-based Baptist church, were arrested trying to take the children across the border to the Dominican Republic 17 days after a magnitude 7 earthquake that killed more than 200 000 people in the impoverished Caribbean nation. - Reuters