Fr. Jean-Juste remains ill with injuries from his beating at the church and swelling on both sides of neck and under arms. Johanna Berrigan, a nurse practicioner from Philadelphia went to visit him today in Haiti with Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit.
Johanna Berrigan was not allowed to bring in her medical equipment, nor to conduct a real examination of Fr. Jean-Juste. The US Embassy also went to visit Fr. Jean-Juste late last week with a physician, but was also denied the opportunity to perform a medical examination. Please keep the pressure on the US and Haitian governments to release Fr. Jean-Juste and all
the political prisoners. This is the report of
today’s visit.Report by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton and Johanna Berrigan of visit on 8.23.05 with Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste in Haitian National Penitentiary:Bishop Tom Gumbleton and Johanna Berrigan were able to visit with Fr. Jean Juste for an hour today, Tuesday, August 23,2005. We met with him in the courtyard of the National Penitentiary. He remains in a small cell in isolation in a basement area. There is no light in his cell which leaves him in darkness.
There is only one small light outside the cell. There is no room to lie down, it is dirty and the smell is very bad. He had much to share with us. He has not been allowed to have any visitors.
Fr. Jean Juste is spiritually strong, but he is physically not well. He appears to have lost some weight. He is clearly in pain. He said ” since the beating, I am suffering so much.” He reports alot of pain in his neck. He attributes this to the beating at the time of his arrest at the funeral. ( See Bill Quigley’s report of the beating and arrest). The swelling on both sides of his neck is very obvious.
He is also swollen under his arms. He also suffered from some type of skin rash due to a chemical that the guards sprayed on him that seems to be getting better.
Fr. Jean-Juste shared with us the details of the accusations, harassment, and arrest. Although he was the victim of abuse at the funeral where he was beaten, he is the one prison rather than his attackers. He was taken to jail on the pretense that it was for his safety. He remains in prison on charges of ” incendiary sermons” and “public clamor, ” which accused him of the murder of Jaques Roches. Fr. Jean Juste was in Miami at the time of the murder.
He spent only minutes talking about his own condition, then he quickly proceeded to tell us of his concerns for the other prisoners. He said “the inhumanity is something unbelievable, I discovered many injustices.” Fr. Jean-Juste shared with us that many have been arrested arbitrarily and on false accusations. He is very concerned for the deportees who he says are in a hopeless situation. They have been deported from the U. S., but they have no representation. He spoke of the horrible treatment of the prisoners who are mentally ill. They are receiving no treatment, just more abuse.
Fr. Jean-Juste told us many prisoners are planning a hunger strike to begin Thursday. The demands of the political prisoners and detainees are:
1. Freedom for all political prisoners. 2. Freedom for all of the deportees 3. Respect for the rights of prisoners based on the U. N. charter for human rights.
4. Stop the arbitrary arrests and indefinite detention of prisoners. 5. Allow all prisoners to have Religious services according to their faith tradition. 6. Stop the beating and mistreatment of prisoners who are menatlly ill.
Pere Jean-Juste shared a story of one of the prisoners who is mentally ill and being held naked under a very hot stairwell. Fr. Jean-Juste said: “It hurts me so much to see this, please hear our call to give justice to all.”
Fr. Jean-Juste continues to be very determined to speak out against all of the injustice.
Fr. Jean-Juste stated that “the de facto government are the real criminals as they are violating article 21 of the Haitian Constitution.
Instead of reform of justice in the penitentary system, the de facto government is abusing their power. There is no due process. Government officials are using state power to crush innocent citizens. The weaker you are, the longer you stay. They forget you.
They don’t even know your name. We are not protected at all. Anybody in power can point a finger at you and you disappear.”
“This government should go and the legitimate government should be restored to power. All political prisoners should be released, there should be respect for the human rights of all. I have hope in fighting the system, I may at some point be released – for the other prisoners, forget it.”
Finally, he said “Thanks to all of you who are
working for my release. I was so happy when I heard
about the many letters that are pouring in and about the letter signed by the Congress people. I was so happy and that is what keeps me going. ” He thanked us for the visit, by the end of the visit he was smiling and said “It feels so good for my soul to be out of the dungeon even for a little while.”
We ended our visit in a circle of prayer where Fr. Jean Juste thanked God for all of us who are working and helping him in doing God’s work of peace and justice.
Letters and faxes calling for Fr. Jean-Juste’s freedom are still coming in for delivery to Haiti.
US Ambassador to Haiti
c/o Professor Bill Quigley
Loyola University School of Law
7214 St. Charles Avenue, Box 902
New Orleans, LA 70118
Please do everything in your power to persuade the unelected Haiti goverment to release Fr. Gerard
Jean-Juste from the Haitian National Prison. Fr.
Jean-Juste does not even have any written chanrges against him and has laready spent more than a month in prison. Fr. Jean-Juste has been identified as a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International, Human Rights First and many other human rights organizations. I know the US can help out. Please help as soon as possible.
mail or fax 504.861.5440.