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Published: Monday, 2/8/2010

Lawyer for group from U.S. in Haiti dismissed


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - The Haitian lawyer representing 10 Americans charged with child kidnapping tried to bribe the missionaries' way out of jail and has been fired, the attorney who hired him said.

The Haitian lawyer, Edwin Coq, denied the allegation. He said the $60,000 he requested from the Americans' families was his fee.

Jorge Puello, the attorney in the neighboring Dominican Republic retained by relatives of the 10 missionaries after their arrest last weekend, said he fired Mr. Coq. He had hired Mr. Coq to represent the 10 at Haitian legal proceedings.

Mr. Coq orchestrated "some kind of extortion with government officials" that would have led to the release of nine of the 10 missionaries, Mr. Puello charged. "He had some people inside the court that asked him for money, and he was part of this scheme," Mr. Puello said.

Mr. Coq denied the requested $60,000 payment amounted to a bribe. "I have worked for 10 people for four days, working all hours," he said.

Mr. Puello said Mr. Coq initially requested $10,000 but kept asking for bigger amounts. He said that when Mr. Coq reached $60,000, he said he could guarantee it would lead to the Americans' release.

A magistrate charged the group's members Thursday with child kidnapping and criminal association for trying to take 33 children out of quake-ravaged Haiti without documents. The Americans said they were a humanitarian mission to rescue orphans after Haiti's catastrophic Jan. 12 quake.

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