, PORT-AU-PRINCE Feb 5 – Ten American Christians charged with child abduction and criminal conspiracy faced lengthy jail times in a Haitian prison on Friday after trying to take 33 children out of the country.
The country\’s Justice Minister Paul Denis insisted the 10 should be brought before Haitian courts, instead of being returned to the United States.
"It is Haitian law that has been violated," Justice Minister Paul Denis told AFP. "It is up to the Haitian authorities to hear and judge the case. I don\’t see any reason why they should be tried in the United States."
The group were formally charged with "kidnapping minors and criminal association" on Thursday, their lawyer Edwin Coq said.
If convicted, they face up to nine years in prison on child kidnapping charges and further jail time for conspiracy.
US State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said Washington was aware that the group had been kept in custody in Haiti.
"We can confirm that the 10 American citizens remain in custody in Haiti. We continue to provide appropriate consular assistance and to monitor developments in the legal case."
The group of five men and five women from an Idaho-based charity were detained a week ago after trying to drive a busload of 33 children over the border into the Dominican Republic.
They have denied any ill intentions, saying they were merely trying to help children orphaned and abandoned by the January 12 quake.
But amid continued chaos in the Haitian capital, questions remained about whether the group would face a fair trial.