Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Account of John & Maria Carroll’s visit with Father Gerry Jean-Juste

The following is an account of John & Maria
> Carroll’s visit with Father Gerry
> Jean-Juste. We have been working in PAP the past few
> weeks, and were able to
> get a ride to the prison with one of Father’s
> parishioners.
>
> We visited Father Gerry Jean-Juste on the morning of
> Friday, Sept.
> 23 at the Haitian Penitentiary Annex, a
> residential-looking building, in the
> Pacot neighborhood of PAP. A Haitian National Police
> officer led us a short
> distance through a courtyard, where six well-armed
> UN soldiers, possibly
> Pakistani, were sitting on the cement floor, playing
> a game, to a large, airy
> room. Five of Father’s parishioners were also
> visiting him, including the cook
> of his feeding program. The feeding program is now
> running four days a week.
>
> Father was originally arrested on July 21, 2005 and
> has been at this prison
> since approximately Aug. 21. He reports that his
> living conditions at this
> prison are much better than in the previous jails.
> In the last prison, Father
> was in a subterranian cell that was very dark. He
> had one roommate. The gases
> emenating from the toilet area were highly
> unpleasant. He developed a rash
> over some of his skin. He also fainted and fell. He
> believes he was moved to
> the current prison because of his health. He no
> longer has a rash, but looks
> thin and somewhat tired.
>
> He currently shares a cell with five people, three
> of whom he described
> as political prisoners also. PM Neptune is also
> being held in this prison, and
> Father describes Neptune’s condition as very poor.
> He is not permitted to talk
> with Neptune, but earlier Friday morning when Father
> was walking by Neptune’s
> door, he said he heard the sounds of “a dying man.”
> When he knocked on the
> door and called to Neptune, Neptune replied that he
> was all right. Father said
> that Neptune is very thin and only taking liquids.
>
> Father was brought before the judge three days ago.
> The judge will be making
> his report soon. We asked him if he thought he was
> in prison so that he could
> not be registered as the presidental candidate for
> the Lavallas party, and he
> said yes. We also asked him if he thought the United
> States was ultimately
> behind his imprisonment. He said he did not like to
> think such things because
> he has good friends in the U.S. However, he said
> that he thought extreme
> elements in the U.S. government could be involved.
> He has opposed Roger
> Noriega, the outgoing Asst. Secretary of State for
> Western Hemisphere Affairs,
> James Foley, the outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Haiti,
> and John Bolton, the U.S.
> Ambassador to the UN. While in the U.S. he led
> demonstrations protesting the
> killings by the police in Cite Soleil. Father said
> that because of his
> activism, he believes that he has many enemies.
>
> Father said that a few weeks prior to his arrest, he
> gave a homily at St.
> Clare’s in which he said that according to the
> Haitian constitution, the
> members of the interim government are traitors who
> should be jailed because
> they participated in the overthrow of a
> democratically elected president. He
> said members of the interim government called his
> remarks incendiary and that
> these remarks were another reason why he was
> arrested.
>
> The atmosphere in the visiting room was calm. We
> were not monitored
> while we spoke with Father. We talked with him for
> about an hour. He was able
> to write notes for us, and John was able to examine
> Father. Father told us
> that the prison guards who were currently on duty
> were more liberal minded and
> this is one of the reasons for the relaxed
> conditions. We were able to give
> him a note from Joanna Berrigan.
>
> John has some serious concerns about Father’s
> health. As soon as possible, we
> believe he needs to come to the United States for a
> further workup.
>
> We first met Father in March of this year when we
> attended mass at St.
> Clare’s. At the end of mass, Father brought a
> six-year-old girl named
> Raphaella on the alter. In January 2005, Raphaella
> received significant burns
> over the upper half of her body when a propane tank
> exploded. Father asked his
> congregation to help Raphaella and her family. We
> have an organization called
> Haitian Hearts, which brings Haitian children to the
> U.S. for medical
> treatment, primarily heart surgery. John has been
> coming to Haiti since 1981,
> working for about four months a year at clinics and
> hospitals around the
> country. We believe that we have found a U.S.
> hospital that will treat
> Raphaella, as she needs extensive plastic surgery.
> On Wed. of this week, we
> met with Raphaella and her parents to complete the
> hospital application. They
> had told Father that we had likely found a U.S.
> hospital for
> Raphaella. At our visit with Father, when we asked
> him if there was anything
> we could do for him, he said that we did when we
> found a place for Raphaella.
>
> Father’s faith continues to be strong and it is
> sustaining him. He has a
> picture of Archbishop Romero on his wall, which
> inspires him and the other
> prisoners. At the end of our visit, we all joined
> hands in a circle and Father
> prayed for us.
>
> The above is a synopsis of our visit with Father
> Gerry Jean Juste. Please feel
> free to use this information in any way that you
> think would help Father and
> the people of Haiti. We are going to write up some
> additional accounts of our
> meeting and try to get them published and/or online.
>

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