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#5301: Jury finds he masterminded killings of young men last year (fwd)
Published Tuesday, September 12, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Ex-Haitian police official convicted in 12 executions
Jury finds he masterminded killings of young men last year
BY YVES COLON
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- With heavily armed officers providing security inside
and outside the courtroom, a jury on Monday declared this city's former
police commissioner, Jean Colls Rameau, guilty of ordering the execution
of 12 young men during a night-time raid a year ago. Three police
officers -- Yvens Francois, Frito Laura and Pierre-Kenel Lajeunesse --
were found guilty of carrying out what Haitians are calling the
``Massacre of Carrefour Feuilles.' The jury found that two of the
accused officers did not actively participate in the killings and
acquitted Ernst Dumont and Louis-Charles St. Maxen. The verdict was seen
here and abroad as a test of the young Haitian judicial system's ability
to provide redress in a country where the powerful have traditionally
ruled from behind the barrel of a gun.
``This was a big step for our system,'' said Willy Lubin, the head of a
school for judges. ``There were many mistakes made, which we have to
correct, but we feel that if there's no justice there is no democracy.'
Cheers rose as the jury foreman read the charges and the verdict that
declared two officers innocent. Silence framed the foreman's reading of
the guilty verdicts against the four other men, including Jean Colls
Rameau, this city's former police commissioner accused to be the
mastermind of the slayings. Prosecutors asked for a 15-year sentence --
the death penalty does not exist in Haiti -- while the defense argued
for the minimum of three years. Patrick Laurent, one of four lawyers
defending the officers, said his team plans to appeal.``This was a
political trial,'' Laurent said. ``The government needed to show the
international community that there is justice in this country, so they
gave people justice, just like that. They weren't looking for the truth,
they were looking for scapegoats.''
The verdict was delayed over the weekend because the proceedings had
run late on Friday night and after a dozen members of the audience on
Friday stood up and chanted, ``Free Rameau, Free Rameau,'' triggering a
massive display of police strength. Earlier in the week, someone
launched a grenade against the antenna of the government-owned
television station, which has been broadcasting the trial.
A number of Haitians agreed with the verdict against Rameau, but were
not so sure about the others.