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#3867: Haitian police arrest opposition politicans (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Jennifer Bauduy

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, May 25 (Reuters) - Haitian police have arrested dozens
of opposition politicians and many others have gone into hiding since
Sunday's legislative and municipal elections, politicians told Reuters on
     "They are preparing to announce election results, so anyone who can
contest the results is being arrested," said Claude Roumain, a leader of
the five-party opposition coalition Espace de Concertation.
     At least 15 Espace members from the coastal town of Petit- Goave,
southwest of the capital, have been arrested. The party said it was still
compiling information about arbitrary arrests in other parts of the
     At least 30 members of the Organisation of People in Struggle (OPL)
party, most of them candidates, have been arrested throughout Haiti's nine
geographic departments, OPL leader Gerard Pierre-Charles said.
     International observers on Wednesday said they considered the
elections credible despite some irregularities.
     The Organisation of American States Election Observer Mission, in a
preliminary report, said incidents of fraud and intimidation did not affect
the overall legitimacy of the Sunday election in which former president
Jean-Bertrand Aristide's governing Lavalas Family appeared poised to win a
     On Thursday, the former president of Haiti's lower house of
parliament, Vasco Thernelan of the OPL, was arrested along with OPL Senate
candidate Mellius Hyppolite, in the western coastal town of Gonaives, party
members said. No further details were immediately available.
     OPL Senator Paul Denis, who ran for re-election, was arrested from his
home in the South Department on Tuesday. The one-time Aristide ally, was
charged with illegal weapons possession, a charge Denis denied.
     Espace candidate for parliament deputy, Limongy Jean, and four others
were arrested late Tuesday night as they headed from Petit-Goave to the
     He was charged with inciting violence during two days of protests in
     Police on Tuesday also raided the building that housed both the local
Espace de Concertation office and Jean's radio station and arrested 11
Espace members, witnesses said.
     "They beat everyone, they smashed equipment, they took CDs and the
computers. They threw tear gas," Delor Desgranges, who ran for mayor of
Petit-Goave under Espace's banner, said.
     Desgranges, who said he was also beaten by police, but hid to avoid
arrest, talked to reporters at the prison where Jean was being held in
Carrefour, a busy suburb of the capital.
     More than 50 percent of Haiti's voting population went to the polls to
fill 7,500 vacant posts nationwide.
     Polling started four or five hours late in most polling stations
because ballots arrived late or poll workers never showed. Some polling
sites never opened at all.
     Witnesses said poll workers or Lavalas Family party observers in many
cases forced voters to vote for Aristide's party.
     Throughout the day, and once the polls closed, gunmen stormed dozens
of polling stations across the country and made off with ballot boxes, in
some cases replacing them with pre-stuffed boxes, witnesses said.
     Although official election results have still not been announced,
Aristide's Lavalas Family has proclaimed a massive victory including
absolute control of parliament.
     President Rene Preval dismissed the OPL-dominated parliament in
January 1999 to end an 18-month political deadlock.
     More than $500 million in badly needed international aid to Haiti
which requires parliament approval has been blocked.
     Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, became Haiti's first freely
elected president in 1991 but was ousted in a military coup seven months
later. He was returned to power in 1994 by a U.S.-led invasion.