|Posted on Tue, Jan. 31, 2006|
Released Haitian priest treated for leukemia
BY TRENTON DANIEL
Gérard Jean-Juste, the high-profile Haitian Catholic priest and former Miami activist, had CAT scans and other medical evaluations at a local hospital Monday to diagnose the extent of his leukemia and have the disease treated, supporters said.
”I hope he will be cured completely. That’s what we’re hoping for,” said Dr. Paul Farmer, a friend and Harvard professor who specializes in infectious diseases. “I’ve been speaking to his doctors all day.”
According to Farmer, Jean-Juste has chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a form of the blood and marrow disease that progresses slowly but can develop into a more virulent strain of cancer. Doctors should know his prognosis in three to four days, Farmer said.
Jean-Juste’s stay at Jackson Memorial Hospital comes after Haitian Prime Minister Gérard Latortue decided to free the priest from a Port-au-Prince jail so that he could receive medical treatment in Miami for his leukemia, which Farmer diagnosed in December. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice welcomed Jean-Juste’s release.
”I applaud the humanitarian decision reached by the interim government of Haiti to allow Father Jean Juste to seek appropriate medical attention,” Rice said in a written statement. “U.S. officials actively engaged the interim government in support of this decision.”
Haitian police arrested Jean-Juste, 59, six months ago in the kidnap-slaying of a prominent Haitian journalist and charges of plotting to assassinate Haitian police officers.
The charges were later dropped, but a Haitian judge indicted Jean-Juste on lesser charges of illegal weapons possession and criminal conspiracy.
Jean-Juste’s attorneys have called both charges “baseless.”
While supporters cheered Jean-Juste after his Miami arrival on Sunday, the priest’s release is, for now, provisional.
Under a deal brokered by the interim government in Haiti, U.S. lawmakers and the State Department, Jean-Juste is required to return to Haiti for trial. But elections set for Feb. 7 are expected to bring in a new administration, and the charges could be dropped.
Before he was jailed, Jean-Juste was widely considered a possible presidential candidate — somebody who could be a successor to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted in February 2004 by a rebellion. Following Aristide’s departure, Latortue was appointed prime minister and has since garnered criticism for his handling of the government.