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US pastor stuck in Haitian jail without charges

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By BEN FOX and TAMARA LUSH
The Associated Press
Saturday, March 5, 2011; 2:45 PM

JACMEL, Haiti -- It's become a running joke of sorts, a cruel one for Danny Pye: Nearly every week authorities tell the U.S. missionary he'll be freed from his Haitian jail cell "next week," that the man who cared for Haitian orphans will be home with his own daughter and pregnant wife "next week."

But the weeks go by, and almost nothing has changed since Pye found himself abruptly jailed last October.

"I've been told it was supposed to happen pretty much every week for the last five months," Pye told The Associated Press during a brief talk at his cell.

There are no charges filed against the 29-year-old Christian pastor. He initially was ordered into 90-day custody pending an investigation into claims he'd taken property belonging to a U.S.-based ministry. The order even surprised ministry leaders, who thought they'd settled the dispute.

Pye was momentarily freed on Christmas Eve. But as he and his wife, Leanne, walked to their car, a police officer approached, handed Danny Pye a warrant, and marched him back to jail in handcuffs. Later, he was told that questions had arisen about the validity of his residency card.

Pye, who waits in a 10-by-12-foot (3-by-3 1/2-meter) cell shared with nearly 30 other men, finds the ordeal Kafkaesque.

"I have not been charged with anything. There is no reason. ... There is no explanation."

Pye is no newcomer to Haiti. He and Leanne moved from Bradenton, Florida, in 2004 to launch their Joy in Hope ministry in Jacmel, a picturesque town on Haiti's southern coast. The widespread poverty can be overwhelming for some foreigners, she said, but the couple were happy there.

"Haiti, it's just a very simple life," Leanne Pye said from Bradenton, where she is awaiting the birth of their son, expected this month.

Then came the earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010. As aid workers, fellow missionaries and journalists spilled into Haiti, Pye became a well-known contact, one whose fluent Creole and experience in Haiti made him a valuable resource.

One of the volunteers who connected with Pye then was Christopher Tompkins, executive director of the International Medical Assistance Team, a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization comprising volunteer medical professionals.

"By all accounts, the guy takes good care of the kids," said Tompkins, who also is a firefighter and paramedic in Washington state's Snohomish County. "He and his wife are good people."


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