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a657: Haitian senators say they received death threats (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Michael Deibert

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Three senators from Haiti's ruling
Lavalas Family party said on Wednesday they had asked for government
protection after receiving death threats, the latest development in a long
and contentious probe into the murder of Haiti's most prominent journalist.
     The three senators said they asked for official security measures
after partisans of fellow Lavalas Sen. Dany Toussaint, named by an
investigating judge as a suspect in the April 2000 slaying of radio
commentator Jean Dominique, accused them of being agents of the CIA and
threatened to kill them.
     Sens. Prince Pierre Sonson, Gerard Gilles and Lans Clones had angered
Toussaint supporters by pressing for the legislative body to lift his
parliamentary immunity so that he could be questioned further in the
     The probe of Dominique's murder has become a lightning rod for
criticism of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his government's attempts
to battle crime and corruption and establish the rule of law in Haiti, a
Caribbean nation of 7.8 million plagued by street crime and drug
     "I am very afraid of these threats, and I take them very seriously,"
Gilles said.
     The senators became concerned for their safety after a demonstration
in front of the Senate last week, when Toussaint loyalists threatened to
kill them if they continued demanding that Toussaint's parliamentary
immunity be lifted.
     Dominique, an adviser to then-President Rene Preval and Haiti's most
influential commentator, was shot to death outside his radio station, Radio
Haiti Inter. He had been critical of Toussaint, a former Aristide security
chief who he viewed as a destructive influence on Haiti's fragile
     Claudy Gassant, the magistrate who investigated the Dominique murder,
formally declared Toussaint a suspect in the case and complained that
government officials were interfering in the probe and, on occasion,
threatening him.
     Since shaking off the Duvalier family dictatorship in the 1980s, Haiti
has struggled to establish stable democratic institutions. Aristide's first
term as president was interrupted by a military coup in the autumn of 1991.
     His second term, begun last February, has been plagued by political
infighting, and his critics have cited the Dominique case as a prime
example of his inability to stabilize the country's shaky judiciary.
     Called in for questioning by Gassant last year, Toussaint arrived with
a rowdy group of supporters and has since said that he is the victim of a
conspiracy by the three senators.
     Gassant's term in office expired last month and he left Haiti for the
United States. Aristide replaced him.
     Tensions in the case hit a boiling point last week when an internal
report to the full Senate advised against lifting Toussaint's immunity and
faulted Gassant's handling of the case. The Senate then decided to give the
case further study.