A Florida woman is pleading for help to free her missionary husband, who has been imprisoned in Haiti for five months without charge.
Leann Pye, 27, says her husband Daniel, 29, was mysteriously detained in October when the couple, who have operated an orphanage in Jacmel, Haiti, for the past seven years, went before a judge to divide assets with an organization they had previously worked for. But once an agreement was reached, the judge in the case, Jean Samedy, had Pye arrested.
The reason, according to at least one legal expert: Samedy was apparently angry over getting bumped from a hotel room by a relief organization in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.
“Daniel Pye helped an organization rent the place, a hotel or guest house, and he (the judge) was living in the place and the judge at that time was forced to leave,” Osner Fevry, a Haitian legal expert assisting in the Pye case pro bono, told FoxNews.com. “I heard that from the prosecutor personally.”
Others have suggested the U.S.-based non-profit organization involved in the hearing with Pye, Joy in Hope, was behind the arrest. “Two judges wouldn’t even take their case … but they finally found their third judge and I will tell you that there are reports that the judge was paid money to follow through on that and that the judge was subsequently paid more money to re-arrest him,” said a source who wished to remain anonymous told FoxNews.com.
Daniel himself says in a video taken last week that it was a “fellow American” that “stabbed him in the back and put him in jail.”
Leann Pye, who is currently in Bradenton with her mother, said the whole situation has been very difficult to piece together, especially since they had already resolved their civil dispute with Joy in Hope when Daniel was arrested.
“We agreed to sign everything over to the organization and at that point my husband was handcuffed, and he was led out,” said Leann, who is nearly nine months pregnant with the couple's second child. “No one seemed to know what was happening.”
With no explanation given for the arrest, her lawyer suggested it might be a pressure tactic to ensure they followed through with their agreement. A few days later, they officially signed over all of the disputed assets. But Daniel was not released.
“That’s when I found out that the judge was refusing to sign the release papers and that he was allowed to hold somebody for up to 90 days while he investigated, ” Leann said.
But Samedy refused to tell Leann why he was investigating Daniel. Joy in Hope, which denies any involvement in Daniel’s detention, says he wouldn’t tell them either.
“When he was handcuffed none of us understood why,” said Brian Williams, director of Joy in Hope, the non-profit that was negotiating assets with the Pyes. “I looked at the director on the ground and I said, ‘Why is he being handcuffed, we just settled all of this?’ and we were literally told it was time to go.”
Williams told FoxNews.com that the organization was subsequently told “it wasn’t a Joy in Hope issue anymore.”
Roughly two months later, the couple’s lawyer secured Daniel’s release with an appeal arguing Samedy had no grounds for his investigation. “The Dean of the Court ordered he be released immediately because the arrest was illegal,” said Fevry.
But just minutes after being released on Christmas Eve, Daniel was re-arrested.
“We were literally maybe 10 feet out of the prison and we were approached by the police officer for the judge and Danny was handed a piece of paper that was in French,” Leann said. “He handed it to me and we were like ‘What’s this?’ and the police officer just said, ‘Read the paper,’ then turned my husband around and handcuffed him again, took the paper out of my hands.”
Leann, who speaks Creole but not French, said she could see the arrest order was signed by Samedy.
Fevry said the second arrest also was illegal, because Samedy did not seek the legal consideration of the prosecutor, as required by Haitian law, and because the warrant was written only in French. “It is clearly established by the constitution that all warrants must be written into both French and Creole, period,” he said.
Leann later discovered her husband was accused of being in “possession of a false document” for an ID card he was carrying, which only created more confusion.
“From what the American Embassy and my lawyer have told me, the ID card that we got is legal, I mean we went to the immigration office in Port Au Prince, the only place you can get it,” she said. “…every missionary that I’ve talked to has one because to put things in your name, like to buy a new vehicle, you have to have it.”
Leann said the U.S. Embassy also told her in January that the judge had an extra 30 days to either file official charges against Daniel or sign his release papers. But Pye remains in prison, and isn’t eligible for Haiti’s equivalent of bail because he hasn’t been charged.
“At least five very difficult complex facts are impeding Daniel to be released from prison: the prosecutor has been fired, the former dean passed away, there is a strike of the deputy prosecutors… and the judge is now sick,” Fevry said Friday. “… I asked the new dean last night why she can’t appoint a new judge and she said people will accuse her of trying to be partisan to Daniel Pye.”
Leann, who has since returned to the U.S. on doctor’s orders, said she’s now left with more open-ended questions than answers. And while she’s still not sure whether to believe the hotel bump explanation, it now seems to “have the most validations behind it.”
“After the earthquake we helped a lot of organizations … one organization wanted to rent a hotel to put their teams in, they had teams coming in back to back, so Danny helped them find a lawyer, get the lease agreement written up, get it notarized, pretty much get everything done. People have since told me that the judge was one of the tenants that lived in the hotel and one of the stipulations of the agreement was that the judge had to go.”
Fevry said that rumor was confirmed by the former prosecutor in the case, Vladimir Yayo, who suggested directly to him Samedy was still angry.
“Only a judge with personal interest in a matter would do what Judge Samedy is doing in this case … and the judge is not supposed to investigate the case of someone with whom he had in the past those kind of relationships, whether they were bad or good.”
A State Department official would not discuss details of the case, but told FoxNews.com learned that the department is monitoring the case closely and providing all appropriate counselor assistance.
“Our last counselor visit to him was on March 1; the deputy chief of mission and the consul general held a productive meeting with the Haitian minister of justice in which they reiterated our desire to see Mr. Pye afforded due process as soon as possible.”