Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Judge orders top Haitian police officer arrested, Reuters, November 3, 2006

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov 3 (Reuters) – A judge on Friday said he has ordered a top Haitian police chief arrested on suspicion of conspiring with kidnappers after the chief ignored a summons to appear before his court.

Judge Napela Saintil said a warrant for the arrest of police Inspector General Michael Lucius was now in the hands of prosecutor Claudy Gassant.

“I issued a summons commanding him (Lucius) to appear before the court. He has categorically refused,” Saintil told Reuters. “The law says that in such circumstances I have to issue an arrest warrant, and that’s what I did.”

Lucius, barred from leaving the troubled and impoverished Caribbean country, has denied accusations of having ties to kidnappers and accuses Saintil of bias.

“I am ready to appear before a judge, but not Napela Saintil because he is biased against me,” he said.

Lucius has not gone into hiding and travels around Port-au-Prince surrounded by heavily armed policemen who guard him.

He is in charge of units fighting serious organized crime and is the lead officer in the fight against kidnapping, drugs and gangs.

Haiti’s police force is riddled with corruption and poorly equipped.

The international community tried to reform the force when U.S. Marines restored former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power in 1994 after his first term in office had been cut short by a military coup.

But it disintegrated again when armed rebels drove Aristide out of the country for a second bout of exile in 2004.

Several suspected kidnappers have said they worked with Lucius and shared ransom payments with him. Lucius also has been accused of providing weapons to criminals in an alleged scheme to use gangsters to dismantle criminal gangs.

Lucius’s lawyer, Samuel Madistin, said the allegations were unfounded.

“Judge Saintil no longer has the credibility to hear my client because he has shown so much partiality,” Madistin said.

Gassant, the prosecutor, said he could not permit anyone to disregard the judge’s authority and that he has decided to reject all new criminal cases from Lucius’ office until the case is resolved.

“Lucius does not have a right to arrest people while he is himself the subject of a warrant for alleged criminal activities,” Gassant said.

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