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8324: Reporters Sans Frontières: New threats to inquiry into assassination of journalist Jean Dominique (fwd)

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

June 12 - 2001

New threats to inquiry into assassination of journalist Jean Dominique

In a letter to Minister of Justice Gary Lissade, RSF expressed its
profound concern following the uncovering of an assumed plot to
assassinate Judge Claudy Gassant, who is overseeing the inquiry into
the assassination of journalist Jean Dominique, and Senator Prince
Pierre Sonson, who has been calling for justice in the case for some
time. RSF called for the opening of an investigation into these death
threats. The organisation also asked the minister to do everything
possible to guarantee the two men's safety. "It is your duty and
responsibility to ensure the protection of the judge and all persons
concerned by the inquiry," recalled RSF Secretary-General
Robert Ménard. The organisation noted that it was "troubled" by the
inadequate security measures put in place by the authorities to protect
the judge.

According to information broadcast on 8 June 2001 by the Radio
Haïti Inter station, a contract was put on the lives of Judge Gassant and
Senator Sonson. During a meeting held on 6 June, it was reportedly
decided to assassinate Judge Gassant before the publication of the
inquiry's conclusions. Gassant has been the target of threats and acts
of intimidation on several occasions. He is the second judge to lead
the inquiry into Dominique's assassination. His predecessor, Jean-Sénat
Fleury, abandoned the case after coming under pressure.

Senator Sonson, a member of the ruling Fanmi Lavalas Party, has
regularly urged that the journalist's assassination not remain unpunished.
In January, he asked Senator Dany Toussaint to respond to the summons
of a judge who wanted to call him as a witness in the case. A majority of
senators opposed the summons, citing Toussaint's parliamentary immunity.
On 13 April, unknown persons threw rocks and shot automatic rifle fire
at Sonson's home. No injuries were reported in the incident. Sonson
attributed the attack to his opinions, notably concerning Dominique's

Moreover, according to sources close to the inquiry, some of the
men assigned to protect Judge Gassant are unable to take on the job.
Several weapons and the two vehicles that the Ministry of Justice had
earmarked for the inquiry less than one month ago have already been
taken away. This equipment had been given over to the inquiry even
though the investigative team had indicated that it was defective. The
equipment was not replaced, even though it is currently being repaired.

On 8 June, Gassant submitted the inquiry's conclusions to the
government superintendent (state prosecutor). The superintendent had
five days to request further information from the judge. Afterwards, the
judge's ruling, which includes the names of persons who are to be arrested
or charged, is to be made public. Informed of the charges against him on
25 May, Toussaint attributed them to "a vast conspiracy" and did not
respond to the three subpoenas issued by the judge during the week of
4 June.

On the very day that the judge submitted his conclusions to the
government superintendent, about forty Haitian civil society organisations
published an open letter in which they expressed their determination to see
the case reach a successful conclusion.

On 3 April 2000, Dominique, the best known journalist and political analyst
in the country, was killed in the courtyard of his radio station, Radio
Inter. Known for his independent tone, the journalist was critical of former
Duvalier officials and soldiers, powerful families and the bourgeoisie. More
recently, he criticised those he suspected within the Fanmi Lavalas,
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party, of seeking to "divert this
from its principles." In a report published on 2 April, RSF denounced the
fact that the inquiry was nearly cut short several times.