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9614: Four killed in Haiti prison riot (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Trenton Daniel

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Four prisoners were killed
in a riot at Haiti's overcrowded national penitentiary, triggered by
inmates' protests over the earlier death of a prisoner, officials said on
     They said inmates hurled rocks and set part of the building on fire
and security officers replied with automatic gunfire and tear gas. The
disturbances at the prison in the capital, Port-au-Prince, began on
Thursday afternoon and were quelled by the early hours of Friday.
     Dozens of police and a special anti-riot squad were sent in to help
prison guards halt the unrest, said Clifford Larose, head of the
impoverished Caribbean nation's prison system.
     Larose told a news conference that anti-riot squad officers shot and
killed inmate Neptune Sony as he tried to attack them with a machete he
confiscated from a prison kitchen.
     Inmate Leonard Gornail and an inmate whose name was not disclosed were
shot to death on a prison tower, from where they had been throwing rubble
at the officers, the prison director said, adding a fourth prisoner died of
suffocation from tear gas.
     Larose said the disturbances erupted after prisoner Ambroise Max
slapped a guard and later died in a prison area called the Titanic,
although the circumstances of his death were not clear.
     "There were 10 people who conducted this operation. They took Ambroise
to the Titanic and during this time, he died," Larose said. "After that,
the prison became a troubled place."
     Larose said 12 prisoners were taken to hospitals, and 10 high-profile
inmates were transferred to an undisclosed location. Among them were
Prosper Avril, a former dictator who was charged on May 26 in the alleged
torture of opposition leaders in 1989 and 1990, and Coles Rameau, an
ex-police chief convicted of manslaughter in September 2000 for a slum
massacre in May 1999.
     A prison guard said inmates also protested the penitentiary's
unsanitary living conditions and lack of medical accommodations.
     The national penitentiary is the largest of Haiti's 19 prisons and was
built in 1918. The prison, which has a capacity of 800, houses roughly
2,000 detainees, London-based Amnesty International said last April.
     Human rights groups have sharply criticized Haiti's prison system for
failing to meet international prison standards and over allegations of
abuse of inmates. They also charge that few prisoners ever receive a trial.
     After police officers and prison guards quelled the uprising, Larose
invited reporters into the prison early on Friday. Hundreds of inmates,
stripped naked to distinguish them from people who were not prisoners, lay
face down in the courtyard, many trying to shield their faces from
lingering tear gas.
     Later on Friday morning, the inmates were returned to their cells,
where they contested Larose's body count, saying between six and 10 died.