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#626: Haiti To Try Former Military Leader (fwd)


Thursday September 30 8:34 PM ET Haiti To Try Former Military Leader
By MICHAEL NORTON Associated Press Writer 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Raoul Cedras, the military leader whose
brutal regime prompted the U.S. invasion of Haiti,will be tried for a
1994 massacre, the country's justice minister said Thursday.
Justice Minister Camille Leblanc announced the trial in a radio
interview broadcast, the eighth anniversary of the coup that
Cedras led against democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Port-au-Prince
Thursday to remember the event.Cedras will likely be tried in his
absentia, since he now lives in Panama as part of a U.S. deal aimed at
preventing bloodshed during the invasion. Leblanc did not cite a date
for the trial.The charges stem from a dawn attack on April 22, 1994 by
soldiers and their henchmen on a neighborhood in Gonaives filled
with Aristide supporters. The attackers shot and killed at least 30
people there.A preliminary investigation of the killings has been
completed, Leblanc said. More than 20 people have been accused and are
awaiting trial.In all, the military and its collaborators killed as many
as 4,000 people between 1991 and 1994, torturing and maiming
thousands more.In an effort to return Haiti to normal after the U.S.
intervention, Cedras and other military leaders were granted amnesty for
crimes committed during their rule. But there has been controversy over
whether the amnesty applies only to so-called political crimes or to
killings as well.In the radio interview, Leblanc said Cedras ``should be
judged not as a coup leader but as the author of crimes.''The Haitian
government has already demanded that Panama extradite Cedras, but
officials in that country refused, saying the request was not
sufficiently documented. It wasn't immediately clear if a trial and a
subsequent conviction would aid in extradition efforts.Few people
charged with crimes during the military rule have been tried by Haiti's
ineffective judicial system.``The people have never obtained the justice
they have been demanding for so long,'' said Lowinsky Pierre Antoine,
head of the Sept. 30 Foundation, which defends coup victims.Another coup
strongman, former Lt. Col. Michel Francois, was sentenced in absentia in
1995 to life in prison but remains free in Honduras.