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6977: [haiti] Senators Baulk at Testifying in Journalist Assassination Case (fwd)
From: radman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Senators Baulk at Testifying in Journalist Assassination Case
By Ives Marie Chanel
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb 5 (IPS) - Haiti Inter, one of the country's
major radio stations with ties to the government, has suspended
its operations for three days in protest of remarks made by pro
government senators opposed to the subpoena of Senator Dany Toussaint.
Toussaint was to testify before the magistrate investigating the
assassination of Haiti Inter's Jean L. Dominique. The protest action
Toussaint was to appear before the judge to testify in an inquiry
regarding the Apr. 3 killing of Dominique, the country's most famous
political commentator and a close associate of President Rene
Dominique, 69, was shot seven times by an unidentified gunman. He
was killed along, with his bodyguard, in the courtyard of the radio
station, located in the eastern Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of
Dominique was known as a journalist firmly committed to democracy.
Influential people from the business community, the opposition,
and even the present government did not escape his barbs, although
he considered himself an ''independent'' member of the Lavalas
Senator Toussaint answered only one of the three subpoenas he was
issued to testify before the inquiry. He again did not answer the
judge's summons last Wednesday. However, another senator who was
called upon to testify, Jean Claude Delice, did appear. Delice was
called because his car was spotted near the crime scene shortly
after the assassination occurred.
The question being debated here is whether a judge has the power
to subpoena legislators. Senators have expressed their intention
to ignore such summonses.
Jurists, however, have entered a contrary opinion. They believe
that the judge does indeed have such a prerogative, and that the
senators are legally bound to appear. They are not being accused
of a crime, but are merely being asked to testify like any other
The President of the Senate, Yvon Neptune, maintains that the
constitution specifies certain procedures to be followed ''in the
case of a judicial proceeding''.
Article 115 of the 1987 Haitian Constitution indicates that ''no
member of the legislative body can, during his mandate, be arrested
for a criminal, legal, or police matter for a violation of common
law without authorisation by the chamber to which he belongs, except
if caught in flagrante delicto''.
Some parliamentarians have asked for the country's attorney general
to be sacked. Others have indicated that he should be interrogated
by the Senate or removed from office.
''They're using the Dominique assassination as a tool to commit
character assassination. Today it's Toussaint. Tomorrow it'll be
somebody else,'' declared Gerard Gille, a senator from Toussaint's
Yvon Feuille, a senator whose brother, Deputy Hubert Feuille, was
himself assassinated in 1995, wondered why the inquiry into the
Dominique assassination was getting so much attention. Feuille
asked the Senate to investigate what the judge's motives are in
pushing the case.
Judge Claudy Garcan reported he received death threats from a deputy
of the party in power just after Senator Toussaint's abortive
summons was issued.
Michele Montas, Dominique's wife, said that the closing of the
radio station meant ''crime and threats mean no more business as
''It's shocking that Jean Dominique could be assassinated while a
Lavalas government is in power. It shows you that the system has
not at all changed,'' declared Pierre Emmanuel, the news director
at Haiti Inter.
Emmanuel said that ''although Dominique was proud of being a Lavalas
member, he also created a space in which to be critical of Lavalas.
He was able to distance himself from many things the ruling party
did that he thought questionable''.
The behaviour of Parliament is of great concern, declared Emmanuel,
who says that the station still receives threats.
Most people believe that President Preval, whose term of office
ends Feb. 7, is intent on fingering those he believes are involved
in Dominique's assassination.
Informed sources have told IPS that the Lavalas party, however,
considers implicating Toussaint in the assassination is a bad idea
because of the negative impact it could have on the party, which
is led by President-elect Jean Bertrand Aristide.
One of Aristide's immediate challenges when he takes office on
Thursday will be opposition parties contesting last May's legislative,
municipal and local elections, as well as the Nov. 26 presidential
Aristide competed for the presidency against several little-known
Haitian political figures and won.