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Haiti judge could rule in Americans' case

American Jim Allen arrives for a court hearing this week in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with fellow missionaries.
American Jim Allen arrives for a court hearing this week in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with fellow missionaries.
  • Lawyer: Judge could rule on whether to release on bail 10 Americans held in Haiti
  • Attorney contends testimony of Haitians "really exonerated" his clients
  • U.S. missionaries accused of trying to kidnap Haiti kids, take them out of country illegally
  • Americans have said they wanted to help kids, set up orphanage in Dominican Republic

(CNN) -- A Haitian judge could rule Thursday on whether to release on bail 10 Americans detained in Port-au-Prince on child abduction charges, an attorney for one of the Americans said.

The judge has investigated the case against the group thoroughly, Hiram Sasser, director of the Liberty Legal Institute, told CNN's "American Morning," and the testimony of Haitians in the case "really exonerated Jim [Allen] and the others."

Allen is among 10 missionaries charged a week ago with kidnapping children and criminal association for trying to take 33 children out of Haiti without proper documentation following the January 12 magnitude-7.0 earthquake there.

His wife, Lisa Allen, said Thursday she has suffered "horrific anxiety" since the detentions. "I'm confident that the people of Haiti will do the right thing and bring Jim home," she said.

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Sasser said he hopes the ruling comes Thursday, or else it will not come until Monday. Friday is a day of mourning for quake victims in Haiti.

The 10 will not be required to appear in court for the ruling.

Full coverage of the quake's aftermath

The judge, Bernard Sainvil, told CNN on Wednesday that he could reach a decision for a type of bail without bond. The decision would not be a final verdict in the case or even a decision on whether the case would continue to be investigated.

The judge said if he grants the bail, he could set conditions that could include the Americans remain in Haiti while the case proceeds, or allow them to go back to the the U.S. but require them to return to Haiti for the next stage of the process.

The Americans have said they were attempting to help the children get to a safe place and wanted to establish an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. Some of the Americans have said they thought they were helping orphans, but their interpreters have told CNN that they were present when group members spoke with some of the children's parents.

Some of the parents also said they had willingly given their children to the Americans, who promised them a better life and said they could see their children whenever they wanted.

Earlier this week, Jorge Puello, a Dominican attorney hired to represent the group, said the missionaries had authorization from the Dominican Republic to bring the children across the border, but he did not show the documents to reporters.

Dominican officials have said previously the Americans did not have permission to transport children into the country, and Puello did not say whether the group had authorization from Haitian officials.

Allen said she was able to speak with her husband briefly on Tuesday. "He sounded good. He said he's well," she said. "That's what I'm having to go on. It was a very short conversation, but it was great to hear his voice."

She said her husband is a construction welder who wanted to help after seeing the devastation wrought by the Haiti quake. Asked whether she thought her husband was unaware of plans involving the children and had been tricked, she said no, but did not elaborate.

Sasser said Jim Allen was called on the trip to "participate in construction activities. ... Whatever happened and the facts there, we'll find out when he gets home and we'll piece it together."

Another attorney for Allen, Reginald Brown of Washington, sent U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a letter on Tuesday asking her to intervene in the case personally, but a State Department spokesman said Clinton would not get involved.

"It would be highly unusual for the secretary of state to intervene in a case involving the judicial process of another country," spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

CNN's Karl Penhaul contributed to this report.

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