An American who sold his construction business and travelled to Haiti to help earthquake victims is in jail as authorities investigated allegations he kidnapped an infant.
Paul Waggoner, co-founder of a group that provides medical supplies and transportation for aid missions, is expected to be transferred to the overcrowded and dangerous national penitentiary. He could spend the next few months there over accusations he and his fellow volunteers say are fabricated.
Waggoner and members of his organisation, Materials Management Relief Corps, said the 15-month-old boy he is accused of taking actually died at a hospital with fever and gastrointestinal distress in February.
But the child’s father, Frantz Philistin, insists the boy is still alive.
At a hearing on Wednesday, Waggoner’s lawyer showed a death certificate saying the child died months ago – a document the child’s father said was not authentic.
The judge decided to open a three-month investigation into the allegations, and Haitian law allows defendants to be imprisoned without charge during investigations.
The Waggoner case is complicated by a broken justice system where corruption is rampant and more than 80% of inmates have not yet been sentenced. Many await trial for years.
Philistin filed a lawsuit against the hospital in March. Waggoner left the country fearing retribution from the father, but returned soon after. The aid group says it has been focusing efforts on treating victims of Haiti’s surging cholera epidemic, which has killed more than 2,400 people.
Mr Philistin spotted Waggoner and Mr Sebring and several friends at a restaurant on Sunday and called police. The Americans were arrested, though all but Waggoner were released.
The American’s friends said they are afraid about what may happen to him if he is confined with other prisoners in the notorious National Penitentiary in central Port-au-Prince, an overcrowded horror where cholera is rampant and deadly jailbreak attempts are common.