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Courts / Law

Hakkens Appear in Court

The Tampa couple accused of kidnapping their two young sons and taking them on a sailboat to Cuba appeared in court Monday morning for a pretrial hearing.

Joshua and Sharyn Hakken are charged with abducting the boys, ages 2 and 4, from their grandparents' North Tampa home at gunpoint on April 3, a day after a Louisiana court had granted the grandparents legal custody.

Bryant Camareno, who is representing Sharyn Hakken, told the Tampa Bay Times that the couple sought asylum in Cuba because they thought the lives of their children were at risk from U.S. government officials.

"They sought counsel, and they actually met with a lawyer in Cuba," Camareno said. "They felt that their kids' lives were in danger from the (U.S.) government." He said the couple also believed that if Cuba rejected them, they would have time to seek protection at other foreign governments' embassies in Havana.

The Hakkens were arrested at Hemingway Marina outside Havana, days after arriving in Havana by boat. Cuban authorities gave American law enforcement officials permission to arrest the couple and extradite them to Florida. The Hakkens are in Hillsborough County jail awaiting trial on a number of charges, including kidnapping and child abuse.  

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