Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Three allies of ousted Haitian president Aristide released from jail

Three allies of ousted Haitian president Aristide released from jail
10:45 PM EST Dec 23
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Three allies of ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide were freed from jail Thursday evening, despite continuing investigations against them.

Senate President Yvon Feuille, Rudy Heriveaux, the former president of the Chamber of Deputies and grassroots activist Lesly Gustave, all members of Aristide’s Lavalas party, were arrested in October and accused of inciting violence.

Granting a request from the men’s legal team to free them before Christmas, the judge on the case issued a provisional release order, said lawyer Reynold Georges, meaning the judge will continue to investigate whether there is evidence to send them to trial.

In the meantime, the men are free.

Dressed in a suit and greeted by family members shrieking with joy, Feuille left Petionville Prison after nightfall and promisede to resume his political work and fight for peace.

“I am a senator and a political leader,” he said.

“I won’t leave the country and I will fight to see if we can construct a Haiti of peace.”

He said he plans to set up meetings with leaders of his own party but also with representatives of the interim government.

Dozens of Aristide supporters have been arrested since he was ousted in February by a three-week rebellion that forced him to flee the country.

Feuille and Heriveaux were arrested Oct. 2, when police raided a radio station where they were guests on a talk show. Government officials said they were behind violence blamed on Lavalas partisans that began Sept. 30, the anniversary of a 1991 military coup that first ousted Aristide. Lavalas said Haitian police started the cycle by killing two protesters at a demonstration.

More than 100 people have died in political violence since.

The arrests of Feuille and Heriveaux brought cries of injustice and charges the interim government installed by the United States after Aristide fled was on a witch hunt of Lavalas supporters – chargers the government denies.

Lawyer Renan Hedouville, head of a human rights organization, called the politicians’ releases “a victory for justice,” saying the arrests were illegal and politically motivated.

“But there are still a lot, a lot of political prisoners (behind bars in Haiti).” He put the number at about 80.

Gustave, spokesman for a Lavalas grassroots coalition and organizer of several demonstrations demanding the return of Aristide, also was arrested in early October and accused of the same crime as the other men, Hedouville said.

Another client of the men’s legal team, Father Gerard Jean-Juste, another Aristide ally, was also jailed in October and accused of committing acts of violence, including murder. He was released after less than two months, when the judge declared there was insufficient evidence against him.

© The Canadian Press, 2004

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