US missionary convicted of Haiti child smuggling

Port-au-Prince, Haiti - A US missionary has been convicted of trying to illegally take 33 children out of Haiti in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in January.

The judge sentenced Laura Silsby, 40, to the time she had already spent in jail on remand, and said she was free to leave the country.

Silsby, from Idaho, was caught with nine other Americans trying to take the children into the Dominican Republic.

The other missionaries were not charged and returned to the US.

They claimed they were trying to help destitute orphans.

But it emerged that the children were not orphans. Some of the parents said they had handed them over because they thought they would get better care in US hands.

The earthquake in Haiti on 12 January killed more than 220,000 people and left more than a million homeless.

'Praising God'

All 10 of the Americans were initially detained by the Haitian authorities, but only Silsby was charged.

Prosecutors first accused her of abducting the children, but the charge was downgraded to one of "irregular travel" - a crime which covers people smuggling.

Prosecutor Jean-Serge Joseph said she had been sentenced to three months and eight days in jail - the exact time she had spent in custody waiting for her trial.

The Associated Press reported that Silsby returned briefly to her jail cell before heading to Port-au-Prince airport.

"I'm praising God," she told an AP reporter as she waited for her flight.