The Haitian lawyer for 10 U.S. Baptist missionaries charged with child kidnapping tried to bribe their way out of jail and has been fired, the attorney who hired him said Saturday night.


Laura Silsby, 40, centre, the leader of a group of 10 American missionaries being held in Haiti, and Charisa Coulter, 24, left, both of Meridian, Idaho, are escorted out of the court building in Port-au-Prince on Thursday. ((Rodrigo Abdjorge/Associated Press))

The Haitian lawyer, Edwin Coq, denied the allegation. He said the $60,000 US he requested from the Americans' families was his fee.

Jorge Puello, the attorney in the neighbouring Dominican Republic retained by relatives of the 10 missionaries after their arrest last week, told The Associated Press 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 charge.

"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 AP that he was working for no fee.

Puello said Coq initially requested $10,000 US but kept asking for bigger and bigger amounts. He said that when Coq reached $60,000 US, he said he could guarantee it would lead to the Americans' release.

A magistrate charged the group's members Thursday with child kidnapping and criminal association for trying to take 33 children out of earthquake-ravaged Haiti without the proper documents.

The Americans said they were on a humanitarian mission to rescue orphans. But at least 20 of the children had living parents.

Coq said 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.

Puello raised similar concerns. He said that he warned Silsby on the day the group was detained at the border that she lacked the required papers and risked being arrested for child trafficking.

Asked if Silsby had deceived the other nine Baptists in assuring them she had the proper papers, Puello said, "I believe that is true."