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Haitians surrendered kids, Americans' attorney says

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Parents of some of the children whom 10 U.S. missionaries tried to take out of Haiti after its catastrophic earthquake told a judge yesterday that they freely handed over their children, the Americans' lawyer said.

The parents' testimony means no law was broken and "we can't talk any more about trafficking of human beings," attorney Aviol Fleurant told reporters. He said he was confident the judge will dismiss the case.

Nine of the Americans have been interviewed by the judge, who is to decide whether they will stand trial. The judge did not speak with reporters.

Mr. Fleurant said the Americans would be back in court today.

The Americans say they were heading to a Dominican orphanage following Haiti's devastating quake, and had only good intentions.

The parents of some of the children said last week that they willingly turned their youngsters over to the group after the missionaries promised the kids would be educated and relatives could visit them.

Also yesterday, Haiti's government raised the death toll for the Jan. 12 earthquake to 230,000- the same as in the 2004 Asian tsunami. Communications Minister Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue said she expects the toll to rise as more bodies are counted and noted the number does not include bodies buried privately.

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