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#3882: Haiti activists denounce crackdown on opposition (fwd)


Posted at 12:14 p.m. EDT Friday, May 26, 2000 
 Haiti activists denounce crackdown on opposition

 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- (AP) -- Haitian rights activists protested a
crackdown on dozens of opposition politicians today following an
apparent landslide victory in parliamentary elections by former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party. At least 34 opposition
militants have been arrested since Sunday's balloting for
 local and legislative posts. Fifteen are members of the Struggling
People's Organization, and 19 from the five-party Space for Concord
coalition. Space for Concord members were also arrested in three
provincial towns, said Space for Concord spokesman Evans Paul. He didn't
know how many were arrested. Seven of those arrested were candidates.
They include former parliamentary majority spokesman Senator Paul Denis,
who was accused of illegal possession of arms, and Jean Limongy, a Space
for Concord lower-house candidate who was accused of incitement to
violence. Denis' wife, Jacqueline, said her husband had a legally
registered handgun. Denis, 58, a leader of the 1991-94 resistance
movement to military-backed rule while Aristide was in exile in
Washington, D.C., was held for three days in a cramped prison cell in
suburban Petionville with 16 other prisoners. The prisoners
 took turns to sit down or sleep, Mrs. Denis said. Denis was transferred
Thursday night to a prison in southcoast Les Cayes. Some 20 Struggling
People's Organization candidates have gone into hiding, fearing violence
at the hands of Aristide partisans, party spokesmen said. At least
 15 people, most opposition members, were killed in pre-election
violence. Aristide spokesmen have denied any role in the violence.
 ``Anybody can be arrested at any time in Haiti and be held in
deplorable conditions indefinitely on trumped-up charges,'' said
Jean-Claude Bajeux, who heads the Ecumenical Center for Human Rights.
 President Rene Preval locked lawmakers out of Parliament in January
1999, after an 18-month standoff with the Struggling People's
Organization. In March 1999, Preval appointed by decree a new premier
and the provisional electoral council that organized the Sunday
elections. Partial results are expected soon, but Aristide's Lavalas
Family party has declared it won nearly every contested seat. Most
opposition parties accuse Preval and his mentor, Aristide, of
collaborating establish a one-party, totalitarian state, since Aristide
plans to run for president in elections this fall. Most election
precinct stations were staffed exclusively by Aristide partisans.
Opposition pollwatchers were expelled from the stations because the
electoral council had only validated the identity cards of Aristide
pollwatchers, the opposition says. Aristide was elected in 1990 but
overthrown in a 1991 coup. U.S. troops restored Aristide to power in
1994, but Haitian law barred him from seeking a consecutive term in 1995
elections. Since the invasion, the international community has poured
more than a billion dollars into this Caribbean nation, which remains
one of the least developed in the world.