By Andrew Buncombe, The Independent
A popular Haitian folk singer and political activist has been released from jail more than two years after she was seized by US Marines and incarcerated without charge.
Annette Auguste, better known as So Anne (Sister Anne), was released after her lawyer persuaded a judge in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, that there was no evidence to hold her. Yesterday, freed after 826 days in a Haitian jail, she spoke of her incarceration, telling Democracy Now radio in the US: “The conditions in prison were very bad for everyone. Everybody was suffering.” She added: “They had no evidence to condemn me – that is why I’m free.”
So Anne, 65, was one of several high-profile supporters of the former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide rounded up and imprisoned with the barest of evidence after he was forced from power in 2004. Her case was highlighted by Amnesty International, which said she had been seized by US Marines – part of an international force deployed to Haiti – who said she had been arrested on suspicion of “possessing information that could pose a threat to the US military force”.
Even though the US military admitted it found no weapons or evidence to support the allegations against her, she was taken into custody and held by the interim government of Gerard Latortue, imposed by the US, France and Canada, on suspicion of incitement to violence, though Amnesty said she was never charged with a recognisable offence.
The Latortue government was widely criticised for its suppression of pro-Aristide supporters and his Lavalas political party. Other high-profile figures imprisoned were the former prime minister Yvonne Neptune, freed on appeal last month.
The release of So Anne comes five months after the election of President Rene Preval, who has vowed to release all political prisoners. “This is an important step,” said Brian Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. “The struggle continues to release prisoners being held for political reasons who do not have such a high profile.”