The Idaho Senate is circulating a petition calling for the release of Idaho citizens detained in Haiti. Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said four other senators have signed his petition that he will mail to President Barack Obama, leaders in Congress, and Haitian President Rene Preval. He expects to ask the rest of the body to sign, and have the petition in the mail Thursday.
Nine of the 10 Americans charged with kidnapping and criminal association for trying to take 33 children from Haiti to the Dominican Republic are from Idaho. A Haitian judge announced Wednesday that some of the detainees would be released, but wouldn't say exactly how many and said they would have to return to Haiti if a trial is necessary.
“The key thing right now is just getting them out of the situation they’re in,” Winder said about the Idahoans imprisoned in Haiti. He said the petition won’t be an official state resolution or memorial because those would need to go through committees and take more time. “We thought a petition would be quicker and easier,” he said. “We as a state don’t really have any foreign policy standing so what we’re trying to do is figure out a way to let them know of our concern.”
The petition calls for the immediate release of the detainees to the American embassy in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, then allowing them to return to the U.S., where they would stand trial. The text of Winder’s petition says that the detainees have had extreme difficulty in getting legal counsel and are not likely to get a fair and equitable hearing. “It’s not a criticism of the Haitian legal system,” Winder said. “Let’s find out through the legal process what really did happen.”
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