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8103: Fw: Details of the Case Against Avril by the Prosecutor

From: Max Blanchet <maxblanchet@worldnet.att.net>
From: MKarshan@aol.com

Press Release:  June 1, 2001
Contact:  Michelle Karshan, Foreign Press Liaison
for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
Tel.: (011509) 228-2058, Email:  mkarshan@aol.com


    Arrest of Prosper Avril

    On Saturday, May 26, 2001, officers of the Haitian National Police
arrested Prosper Avril in Petionville.  The arrest was made pursuant to a
valid warrant, in French and in Creole, issued by Juge d'Instruction
(Investigating Magistrate) Gerard Gilles, on March 27, 1996.  The warrant
accuses Mr. Avril of having arrested, tortured and injured Evans Paul,
Etienne, Jean-Auguste Mesyeux, Gerard Emile Brun, Serge Gilles and Fernand
Gerard Laforest, and cites articles 254 and 255 (assault), and 289, 291, 292
and 293 (illegal arrest and torture) of the Haitian Penal Code.  The alleged
crimes took place in 1989 and 1990, while Mr. Avril was head of a military
dictatorship in Haiti.

    Pursuant to article 26 of the Haitian Constitution, Mr. Avril was
before the Chief Judge of the Port-au-Prince Court, Ms. Lise Pierre-Pierre,
on Monday, May 28.  Judge Pierre-Pierre, after reviewing the case file,
determined that his arrest was legal, and confirmed his continued detention.
The Prosecutor's office also took the opportunity to question Mr. Avril
regarding additional allegations of his involvement in a plot against the
security of the state.

    The Haitian Code of Criminal Procedure provides that prosecution for the
crimes of which Mr. Avril is accused must be commenced within ten years of
the date the crimes were committed.  The prosecution against Mr. Avril was
commenced by this office on March 26, 1996, approximately six and one half
years after the earliest alleged crimes.

    One of the victims, Evans Paul, has stated to the press that he no
desires to pursue this case.  Although Mr. Paul has not communicated that
desire to this office, a victim's withdrawal does not preclude prosecution.
Under the law of Haiti, as of  many other countries, criminal activity is
considered an injury to public order, as well as to the victim.  The state
free to pursue its interest in restoring public order independent of the
victims interest in pursuing his case.  Mr. Avril, in an April 1998 letter
Mr. Paul, admitted "moral responsibility" for the incident in which Mr.
Marino Etienne and Jean-Auguste Mesyeux were injured.

    Another victim, Fernand Gerard Laforest, died tragically in 1999.  His
survivors have the right to pursue both civil and criminal cases on his

    Lawyers for Mr. Etienne and Mr. Mesyeux, have contacted this office to
express their strong interest in pursuing the prosecution of Mr. Avril, and
in pursuing civil claims against him.

    As Judge Gilles is deceased, this office has requested Chief Judge
Pierre-Pierre to assign a new investigating magistrate to continue the
pretrial proceedings.

    The six victims listed in the arrest warrant also filed a civil suit
against Mr. Avril in Miami, Florida.  The court awarded the victims
$41,000,000US in damages, and found that "Defendant Avril bears personal
responsibility for a systematic pattern of egregious human rights abuses in
Haiti during his military rule of September 1998 until March 1990.  He also
bears personal responsibility for the interrogation and torture of each of
the plaintiffs in this case." Paul v. Avril, 901 F.Supp. 330, 335 (S.D. Fla