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a280: American jailed in Haiti denies acting in coup (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Michael Deibert

    PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan 8 (Reuters) - A Haitian-American businessman
jailed in Haiti on suspicion of taking part in a recent failed coup attempt
denied involvement on Tuesday and blamed his detention on a personal
vendetta by a former associate.
     Antoine Saati, 47, a U.S. citizen born in Haiti, was arrested on Dec.
20 on suspicion of participating in the coup attempt three days earlier,
but has not been charged or brought before a judge.
     "I have absolutely nothing to do with this coup attempt," Saati told
Reuters from the Canape Vert Hospital in Port-au-Prince, where he was
recovering after drinking cleaning fluid he mistook for water in jail. "I'm
here because of people taking advantage of the trust the government put in
     About 30 armed men identified by the government as former members of
Haiti's disbanded army attacked the National Palace on Dec. 17, in what the
Haitian government called an attempted coup. The attack was quelled within
hours but at least 13 people were killed in the assault and in subsequent
mob violence that broke out in the capital and other cities.
     Saati, president and CEO of the Miami-based One World import-export
group, was arrested after arriving in Haiti to resolve a business dispute
with a former partner, Eddy Deeb, also 47.
     Saati said when he arrived at Deeb's place of business, he was
arrested and beaten by a police official.
     He asserted the police acted on the orders of Deeb and a business
associate who is also a senator from President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's
Lavalas Family party.
     Neither Deeb nor the senator was available for comment, nor were
police and justice officials.
     "I'm not Lavalas, but I've always had respect for Aristide. I have
always been opposed to coup d'etat, and I don't believe that he (Aristide)
has anything to do with this," Saati said of his detention.
     Saati also said he did not know Guy Philippe, the former police
official accused by Haitian authorities of masterminding the coup attempt.
     "This is being perpetrated by people who don't care about Haiti, who
don't realize that Haiti doesn't need this, because this government can use
all the help it can get," Saati said.
     He said he was perplexed by several delays in his scheduled court
appearances due to his supposed ill health. A court appearance scheduled on
Friday and another on Tuesday were canceled by Judge Bernard Sanvil, who
said Saati was too ill to attend.
     "Do I look like I'm too sick to stand trial?" Saati asked, sitting on
his hospital bed and playing cards to pass the time.
     Speaking to reporters at the National Palace on Monday, Aristide said,
"The authorities are doing their best to determine whether to release
(Saati) or to keep him in custody ... Hopefully, they will be telling us
where they are with this situation soon. Mr. Saati has rights and they will
be respected."
     Judith Trunzo, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince,
said the embassy had sent a diplomatic note to the Haitian government
before Christmas, raising concerns about Saati's detention, and had not
received a response.
     "The president has stated that Mr. Saati had rights and that those
rights should be respected, and it is now time for those rights to be
respected," Trunzo said. "We are growing increasingly concerned."