Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haiti judge orders release of journalists

Associated Press
September 12, 2005

A judge Monday ordered the release of a Haitian and an American journalist who were arrested as they covered a police search of the church of a jailed priest who is a potential presidential candidate.Kevin Pina was reporting for a U.S. radio program and Haitian Jean Ristil was working for The Associated Press. They were freed without being charged after spending the weekend in jail by the judge who had ordered their arrest at the church of the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste.Pina, of Oakland, Calif., was detained after filming the police as they searched the church. Ristil was taken into custody as he tried to photograph the arrest of the American.They were taken to a police station, where Judge Jean Peres Paul ordered them held on suspicion of “disrespect to a magistrate” and resisting arrest.Peres Paul had said Pina struck him as officers tried to remove the reporter from the church – an allegation that the journalist had denied.The journalists and a few others went to the St. Claire church in a poor neighborhood of Port-au-Prince on Friday after learning that police were searching the building. Officials refused to disclose reason for the operation, but police at the scene said they were looking for weapons.Jean-Juste, a supporter of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has been held since July on suspicion of involvement in the slaying of a well-known journalist, Jacques Roche. Jean-Juste, who has not been charged, denies the allegations.The Roman Catholic priest is considered a possible presidential candidate for the Lavalas Family party of ousted President Jean Bertrand Aristide in Nov. 20 elections.

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