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Freed American Missionaries Leave Haiti for US

Eight of 10 American missionaries charged with child kidnapping in earthquake-ravaged Haiti have left the Caribbean nation and are on their way to the southern United States, after being freed from jail.

Witnesses say the missionaries left late Wednesday on a plane bound for the city of Miami, Florida, after a Haitian judge issued a release order earlier in the day. News reports say the group was allowed to leave a prison in the capital, Port-au-Prince, without conditions.

But the judge said the leader of the group of Baptist missionaries, Laura Silsby, and another woman, Charisa Coulter, would remain in custody to face further questions about the alleged attempt to take 33 children out of the country illegally.

The latest development comes nearly three weeks after the 10 Americans were arrested.

Whether the criminal charges originally filed against Silsby and Coulter are still in effect was unclear late Wednesday. Coulter, who suffers from diabetes, was taken to a hospital for treatment earlier, but her condition was not known.

The missionaries have said they were planning to set up an orphanage in the neighboring Dominican Republic. However, many of the children involved in the case are not orphans and have parents living in Haiti.

The 10 Americans were charged with child trafficking and criminal conspiracy, which could be punished by lengthy prison terms.

Parents of some of the 33 youngsters appeared in court earlier this month, saying they willingly offered their children to the missionaries. The parents called for the Americans to be freed unconditionally.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.