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a403: Haiti-Gassant (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

   MIAMI, Jan 18 (AP) -- A Haitian judge assigned to investigate the
slaying of a prominent journalist has fled to South Florida, saying he
feared for his life.
   Claudy Gassant, 36, arrived in Palm Beach County 1 1/2 weeks ago. He had
been ordered to probe the April 3, 2000, killing of Jean Dominique.
Dominique, 69, was shot seven times minutes before he was to give his 6
a.m. newscast on Radio Haiti Inter, the station he owned. A guardian of the
station, Jean-Claude Louissaint, also was fatally shot.
   Gassant stepped down from the case once before in June, saying security
concerns had forced the decision. In early May, he threatened to resign,
saying he feared for his life and had not been given adequate police
   He also said he was intimidated by police officers a few days after the
Dec. 17 attack on Haiti's National Palace.
   "I couldn't do my job," said Gassant, who at one time had two armed
guards. "Even inside the court I did not feel safe."
   Six suspects in the case have been detained and more than 80 people have
been questioned, but Gassant's mandate expired on Jan. 4 without any
resolution of the slaying.
   "My mandate not being renewed exposed me more," said Gassant. He told
The Miami Herald he plans to stay in South Florida at least a year and is
deciding whether to request political asylum.
   Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has yet to name Gassant's
   But Gassant, who for some time has said he would not seek another
mandate, expressed ambivalence Thursday about taking up the assignment
   "If he were to renew the mandate, I would find myself in the impossible
position of being unable to say, 'No,'" Gassant said. "But because I know
he cannot protect me as a result of what I've experienced, I don't think
that would make me return."
   Gassant was the second judicial investigator. His predecessor,
Jean-Senat Fleury, withdrew for security reasons in September after five