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8574: This Week in Haiti 19:16 7/4/2001 (fwd)
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* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
July 4 - 10, 2001
Vol. 19, No. 16
THE JEAN DOMINIQUE MURDER INVESTIGATION:
WHAT DOES ARISTIDE'S SILENCE MEAN?
(First of two parts)
Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide has a lot of problems.
The United States and European Union still refuse to give
economic assistance they promised long ago. Negotiations with the
Democratic Convergence opposition front seem to never end, with
every breakthrough in the talks followed by a breakdown. Many of
Aristide's supporters and allies have taken a distance since he
integrated prominent Duvalierists and 1991-1994 coup
collaborators into his cabinet. Poverty and crime are rising, the
value of the gourde is sinking, and government inertia and
corruption remain unchanged.
But if there is any one issue which could be considered the fuse
to the Haitian powder-keg, it is the investigation into the Apr.
3, 2000 assassination of Radio Haiti Inter director Jean Léopold
Dominique (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 18 No. 3, 4/5/00).
In the first week of June, after a 13 month investigation,
examining magistrate Claudy Gassant finally delivered his report
on the killing to the public prosecutors' office. The prosecutor
has asked for more information in the form of a "supplemental
brief," and the details of the investigation have yet to be made
public. But some leaks suggest where things are going.
In a long article published by the the Inter-American Press
Association in March, Ana Arana, who got close to the
investigation, charged that Dominique "was killed in a political
conspiracy apparently planned and conceived over several months
by leading political figures tied to Aristide." Among the
suspects, she wrote, is "Sen. Dany Toussaint, a Machiavellian
figure who commands a lot of power inside Lavalas, and several of
his allies who serve in the Aristide government or are members of
the Haitian Senate. These officials, the investigation indicates,
viewed Dominique's independence and honesty as a threat to their
quest for power, and their involvement in corrupt businesses,
according to sources close to the investigation."
Up until now, however, Toussaint has not been indicted. But you
wouldn't know that from the way he is acting.
On May 30, Toussaint took to the airwaves to denounce a
conspiracy to frame him for the Dominique murder and destroy him
politically. The clique behind this scheme? Former president René
Préval, former justice minister Camille Leblanc, former security
secretary of state Bob Manuel, director of the School for Judges
Willy Lubin, examining magistrate Sénat Fleury, and... judge
"René Préval ordered Camille Leblanc to arrest Dany Toussaint
last June, and Camille Leblanc hatched a plot at the School for
Judges, where he met Willy Lubin, director of the school and
judge Sénat Fleury, whom he asked to arrest me," Toussaint said.
"The plan was to arrest me but judge Fleury could find no motive
to hold me, so the case was taken from him and given to judge
Claudy Gassant, putting everything at his disposal to arrest Dany
Toussaint... Claudy Gassant has but one goal: gather by any means
evidence to indict me." Judge Fleury, seasoned with 15 years of
experience, was the first examining magistrate on the Dominique
case, but he and a second judge both resigned after receiving
death threats. Newly minted magistrate Gassant, whom Toussaint
called "a little judge without personality," then took up the
Toussaint also charged obliquely that "the vehicles" of both
Manuel and Préval had "transported drugs," and that he himself
had absolutely nothing to do with drug trafficking, as Washington
officials have often alleged.
He further questioned why U.S. Embassy spokesman Daniel Whitman
had been in touch with one of the Dominique case's arrested
suspects, Philippe Markington. "Why did they authorize Daniel
Whitman to take contact with Markington who, according to them,
is a hired assassin? Toussaint asked with great sarcasm but
little precision. "And the judge never summoned Daniel Whitman.
We'll drop it for now, but further along we will say more."
In the course of his tirade, Toussaint also accused Préval of
illegally freeing Charles Suffrat, national spokesman of the
Artibonite-based peasant organization Kozepèp, who was arrested
in 1998 for involvement in the murder of another peasant leader,
Both Leblanc and Lubin denied Toussaint's charges, while Préval
chose not to reply.
Then, on Jun. 12, just as the public prosecutor's office said
they had Gassant's report in hand, Toussaint announced that he
had rounded up some lawyers and a justice of the peace, Jean
Gabriel Ambroise, who "authorized' him to enter the prison and
question the two suspects -- Markington and Jamely "Tilou" Milien
-- being held in the case. Toussaint claims they "admitted" to
being bribed by Gassant and Lubin with cars, houses, U.S. visas,
and $50,000 if they agreed to finger the senator.
At first the public prosecutor Josué Pierre-Louis argued that
Toussaint's blatant interference in the investigation was legal
and justified. But as outcry grew, Justice Minister Gary
Lissade's office backed down and said they were reviewing what
action to take against Ambroise.
Meanwhile, Gassant has received constant threats and harrassment.
On four separate occassions, the the chief of the police's
Traffic division, Evans Saturné, stopped Gassant's motorcade as
it sped to his office. Gassant's security detail was
progressively peeled away, so he either had no protection, ill-
equipped protection, or policemen he did not trust.
For weeks, Gassant and Lissade carried out a debate over the
airwaves, with the judge saying he had no security corps while
the minister insisted he did.
All of this was too much for Gassant. On Jun. 13 he resigned,
saying that he would not return until Lissade truly guaranteed
his security and until sanctions were taken against Saturné and
Ambroise. He then left the country for the U.S. three days later.
Faced with disgrace, Lissade said he would not accept Gassant's
resignation and promised to meet his demands. On Jun. 25, Gassant
returned to Haiti, and this week he returned to his post but has
not yet agreed to resume the Dominique investigation. «All that I
can say is that I had a conversation with the head of the Port-
au-Prince civil court, Mme. Lise Pierre-Pierre, who communicated
to me the declarations of the Justice Minister who apparently has
taken all the appropriate measures for the investigation to
proceed," Gassant said. "It could very well be that we will
resume the investigation this week."
Lissade did penalize judge Ambroise with a six month dismissal
from service, while traffic chief Saturné made a public apology
to Gassant but remains in his post. However, the most important
element of Gassant's demands, for reliable security, remains a
mere promise from a Justice Minister who was a Duvalierist and
legal counsel to coup leader Gen. Raoul Cédras. With every
passing week, his assurances seem less like incompetence and more
(To be continued)
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