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Missionaries freed by Haitian judge arrive in Florida

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8 missionaries back in U.S.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Eight American missionaries released from Haitian jail return to U.S.
  • Two remain in jail for further questioning
  • Ten missionaries accused of trying to remove Haitian children from country

Miami, Florida (CNN) -- Eight U.S. missionaries who were detained for almost three weeks in Haiti on child kidnapping charges arrived in Miami, Florida, late Wednesday night after a judge ordered them freed.

The group arrived at Miami International Airport on a U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo plane from the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.

"It feels great for him to be back from Haiti," said Hiram Sasser, who represents one of the men, Jim Allen. "It's great that the attention will return to where it should be back on the people of Haiti."

The freed Americans were among 10 charged with kidnapping and criminal association for trying to take 33 children out of Haiti after a magnitude-7.0 earthquake devastated the impoverished country on January 12.

Full coverage of the earthquake's aftermath

Video: Freed Americans 'grateful'
Video: Missionaries back in U.S.
Video: 'Justice has been served'
RELATED TOPICS
  • Haiti
  • Miami
  • Dominican Republic
  • Laura Silsby

The group said it was trying to help the children get to a safe place and wanted to establish an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. The eight were released without the need to post bond.

Lawyer Gary Lissade, who also represents Allen, said the fact that the judge was releasing the Americans on their own recognizance may indicate that the charges will be eventually dropped.

The Haitian judge ruled Wednesday that the other two Americans, Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter, will remain behind because authorities want to determine why they traveled to Haiti on a trip before the earthquake, attorney Avion Fleurent said.

"The United States Government respects the sovereign right of the Government of Haiti to conduct its own judicial processes," P.J. Crowley with the U.S. State Department said. "Haitian authorities have been cooperative in ensuring the individuals' safety and welfare since their arrest and we have every expectation this will continue."

Phyllis Allison, Allen's mother, said she couldn't wait to see her son.

"It's been awful, but we just trusted in God that it would happen," she said.

CNN's Chuck Johnson, John Vause, Lonzo Cook, Terence Burke, David McKenzie, Dan Simon and Paul Vercammen contributed to this report.

 
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