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a160: S. Floridian denies taking part in Haitian coup attack (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
S. Floridian denies taking part in Haitian coup attack
By Madeline Baró Diaz and Thomas Monnay
Posted December 27 2001
MIAMI -- A South Florida businessman jailed in Haiti in connection with an
attempted coup at the National Palace on Thursday denied any involvement in
the attack and said he hopes to be released by the end of the week.
In a phone interview with the Sun-Sentinel, Antoine “Tony” Saati sounded
relaxed as he spoke from a private hospital room at L’Hôpital du Canapé Vert
in Port-au-Prince. He was under the watchful eyes of two police officers and
had his trusted Dominican driver at his side.
Saati said two senators from the Lavalas ruling party visited him on
Thursday, and promised they would advise President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
about his situation as soon as possible. Saati hopes to be released as early
as Saturday, though Haitian officials have said little publicly about his
arrest, much less any pending release.
“They said it’s a big mistake that has to be corrected,” Saati said. “One of
[the senators] is like Aristide’s son. He said he was going to talk to him
“They heard the story. They looked at me in the eyes. They know I’m honest.
Things are turning in my favor.”
Saati says he is in jail because of a politically connected former employee
turned business rival who he accuses of illegally copying and selling
products made by his Miami-based company One World. Saati was on a
fact-finding mission at the rival’s company in Haiti when he was arrested
Haitian authorities said they were holding him for questioning in connection
with last week’s attempted coup. On Thursday, the Haitian government
appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the assault and resulting mob
violence in which 13 people including a gunman and two police officers were
At least three others have been detained in connection with the attempted
coup: Pierre Richardson, a suspected attacker; Guy Franois, an alleged coup
plotter; and Jean Dumel, the caretaker of a house where police think some of
the attackers stayed before the incident.
Saati said after his arrest a week ago he was locked in an 8-foot by 9-foot
cell with 14 other people, including two pregnant Dominican women. He said
he lived with roaches and “I’ve made friends with them.”
Saati ended up in the hospital after drinking Pine Sol. He said he was
sitting on a box in the cell, fell asleep and when he woke up accidentally
grabbed a bottle in the dark that he thought was his water bottle. He
doesn’t know how the cleaner got in his cell.
Haitian officials have publicly released no details about Saati’s arrest,
saying only that he was detained in connection with the coup. Saati said the
Haitian government has given him no explanation about his arrest, either.
“There is no warrant. There has been no charge brought against me,” Saati
One World, the Miami-based import-export company that Saati runs with his
sister, Gina Saati, markets candy, soap, toothpaste, notebooks, brooms,
boullion cubes, juice, batteries, light bulbs and other household products
in Haiti under the “Gina” brand name.
Gina Saati said her brother is not political — he is a businessman who
markets quality products to the poor people of Haiti. She described him as a
comedian, a “joker” who began his multinational business with a makeshift
desk made from six cement blocks and his bedroom door.
Antoine Saati normally begins his work day at 4 a.m. and is a voracious
reader who takes in every newspaper and magazine he can get his hands on,
his sister said. The Saatis work out of a 42nd-floor office with a view at
the Bank of America tower in downtown Miami.
The 47-year-old bachelor lives in a 900-square-foot condo on Miami Beach.
Growing up privileged in Haiti, Antoine Saati was known to disparage
“bourgeois” parties and cut the sleeves off his shirts in a sign of
solidarity with Haiti’s poor, his sister said.
He has lived in the United States since 1972, when he went to study at
Boston University. He was close to becoming a U.S. citizen three times, but
decided against it because he didn’t want to give up being a Haitian
citizen, Gina Saati said. He finally became a citizen about two years ago
because he feared if he should ever run into trouble in Haiti because of the
business dispute, his American citizenship would protect him, Gina Saati
Officials with the U.S. Embassy in Haiti and the State Department in
Washington have declined to comment publicly on Saati’s case, saying he
signed a “privacy act” that prohibits them from talking. Gina Saati said
U.S. officials handled her requests for help with “a certain nonchalance.”
She blames corruption within Haiti’s government for her brother’s
predicament, but she hopes some good will come out of it. “I keep thinking
that maybe this can turn into something positive for the Haitian people,”
she said. “The corruption has to stop.”
Staff writer Tim Collie contributed to this report, which was supplemented
with information from Sun-Sentinel wire services. Madeline Baró Diaz can be
reached at email@example.com or 305-810-5007.
Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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