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9936: Journalist Assassinated by Alleged Supporters of Aristide by Ives Marie Chanel (fwd)

From: Stanley Lucas <slucas@iri.org>

Expressmedia - GRALIP - Haiti

 Haiti-Press: Journalist Assassinated by Alleged Supporters of Aristide
by Ives Marie Chanel

 Port-au-Prince, December 3 (IPS) - A journalist of private radio Echo 2000 broadcasting from the city of Petit Goave, 77 kilometers south west of the Haitian capital, was assassinated Monday by unknown individuals identified as supporters of "Fanmi Lavalas," the party in power.

Brignel Lindor, age 31, was assassinated with machetes and iron bars in the village of L'Acul-Croix-Hilaire, 6 kilometers from the city, by individuals who were preparing a punitive expedition against participants of an opposition demonstration having, a few hours earlier, allegedly beaten a member of a popular organization close to the regime, during a march organized by the Democratic Convergence (opposition) in order to demand Aristide's resignation.

 At first, the crowd threw stones at the vehicle in which the journalist was riding. The driver of the vehicle, a friend of the victim, was able to escape during the attack. The journalist, who sought refuge for his safety in a house of the neighborhood, used as an office by the head of the Executive Board of the Communal Section (CASEC) (a kind of administrative sub-district council), was turned over to the mob by that local leader.

 The assassination was registered at 11 a.m., local time, and the body picked-up
 4 hours later, in the afternoon, without legal formality and without a police representative
 on the scene of the crime. The police did not make any arrest.

Radio Echo 2000 stopped its programs since the news was announced, for safety reasons. The police showed a certain level of passivity in the city, where the streets were emptied during the evening as in a state of siege, according to a journalist from the
radio station.

Arbrun Alezi, the radio director, told IPS that the journalist, who had been the news director at the local station and hosted a political talk show called "Dialogue," had received threats in public since November 28 from local officials known as members of the party in power.

 "That day," said Alezi, "City Mayor Emmanuel Antoine called and threatened us to close the station. During a press conference on Friday, Dumay Bony, Deputy Mayor of the city of Petit Goave, threatened to use the "zero tolerance formula" against the journalist and against Déus Jean François, a former parliamentarian from the opposition who had been invited to the radio program, as well as against other opponents of the regime."

 The program was broadcast the day before a general strike called by the opposition in the Southern region of the country.

 The murdered journalist had discussed with his colleagues the death threats he had received orally from the "chimè" (thugs), a kind of militia devoted to the ruling regime of Port-au-Prince.

 "The Zero Tolerance Operation" is seen by the human rights organizations as a form of invitation to violence, a policy of assassination or tolerance for assassination, an open
door to extrajudicial executions.

 In a document sent last October 18 to the Haitian Prime Minister Jean Marie Chérestal, President of the Higher Council of the National Police of Haiti (CSPNH), the National Coalition for Human Rights (NCHR), an organization based in New York, had spoken against the fact that activists of human rights organizations were threatened because they also spoke against the "Zero Tolerance" statement from President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

 In a public statement made on June 28 at the headquarters of the National Police of Haiti (PNH), Aristide had implicitly given a free hand to police officers for the summary execution of alleged thieves and murderers. The president had then minimized the
role of justice in the case of persons caught in acts of banditry.

 Human rights organizations have spoken against the cases of lynching frequently occurring throughout the country, with the complicity of police officers most of the time, to say the least.

 Last September, Paul Raymond and René Civil, leaders of popular organizations
(OPs) close to the regime, accused the human rights organizations of "living off the political crisis" and supporting the opposition. Raymond and Civil, against whom several court summons have been issued and ignored by police during the investigation about the murder of journalist Jean Léopold Dominique killed on April 3, 2000, asked the government then to use the "zero tolerance" formula against the human rights activists.

 Last month, Aristide spoke up again and reiterated his call for vigilance and his belief in the "zero tolerance" formula which, according to the president, should be used against all forms of "kidnapping."

 A few days later, the official car of a parliamentarian linked to the regime was confiscated by police after it was used for "kidnapping" and holdup, when 80 thousand dollars
were stolen and two currency traders were kidnapped and killed. The name of the parliamentarian's bodyguard is on the list of the alleged perpetrators of the crime.

 A diplomatic source told IPS that "in several chanceries, the police is suspected of having set up in the capital two special units responsible for implementing the 'zero tolerance' formula by the elimination of 'any armed bandit' without due process."

 Analysts of the situation in Haiti have expressed concerns about a possible flare-up in reprisal against journalists and the media, due to the increase in violence and political tension noticed during the past weeks.

 In spite of its an ambivalent attitude during the present crisis, the opposition called for a general strike on Wednesday throughout the country to ask Aristide to resign.

 Since the month of October, about ten journalists were attacked and threatened by members of organizations close to the regime or arrested by police.

 Brignol Lindor, who was a lawyer and customs inspector, is the second journalist assassinated here in a period of 21 months.

 On April 3, 2000, Jean Léopold Dominique, the most widely known political analyst of Haiti, was assassinated along with the watchman of his radio station, Claude Louissaint, by unknown armed assailants.

The investigation of Dominique's murder has come to a standstill for more than three months, due to the foot-dragging of a parliamentary commission in the evaluation of a request to lift the immunity of Dany Toussaint, an influential senator of the Lavalas party, named in the investigation conducted by Judge Claudy Gassant. 

(end/ IPS/IMC/01)