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8593: The Jean Dominique Murder Investigation (fwd)

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

Haïti Progrès [HOME]
July 4 - 10,  2001
This week in Haiti


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 Claudy Gassant.

"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 case.

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, Chenel Gracien.

Both Leblanc and Lubin denied Toussaint's charges, while Préval chose not to

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

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 like

(To be continued)