By: Wadner Pierre
“I am not a visitor. It is my country. I come when I want, only I have a lot of things to do to the United States with the various Haitian communities, and I travel frequently. I am only here for an appointment with the honorable judges of the Court of Appeal in Port on Monday, November 26, 2007 at 10:00 AM. I respect the justice of my country� – so stated Father G�rard Jean-Juste to journalists shortly after stepping off a plane in Port-au-Prince.
Accompanied by his lawyer Mario Joseph, of the Bureau des Avocats Internaux (BAI), the priest arrived one half hour early for his court appointment. At 11:30 am the hearing began with the three judges of the Court of Appeal: Ms. Lise Pierre Pierre, Mr. Daran and Mr. Eddy Joseph Lebrun. Father G�rard Jean-Juste has been battling charges against him since July of 2005 despite international protests in which even Amnesty International participated.
Jean-Juste is charged with the notoriously vague allegation of “criminal association”, as well as illegal possession of weapons. After questioning, the court asked Jean-Juste to summarize his defense.
In response to the charge of “criminal associations” he stated “As a priest my boss is Jesus, then the Bishops, and after them my people are my associates. I am not a member of an association of ‘malefactors’, but a member of an association of benefactors, and in this association Jesus is the boss.”
Regarding the second charge of illegal possession of weapons, he said: “I am a priest, and as a priest my job is to pray and help people who need help. When I worked for President Aristide I had some security guards. After the coup in February 29  I lost the job and with that the security guards too. The Judge who heard my case before wrote that I said I have guns. Yes, I have guns: My Bible and my rosary are my guns. ” Jean-Juste then held up his rosary as supporters of Fanmi Lavalas, party of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, shouted out: “Justice, justice for Father Jean-Juste”.
In the end Judge Pierre Pierre decided not to dismiss the charges. She claimed more time was needed to review the case. Jean-Juste retains his “provisional” freedom. The decision is odd given the two and a half year duration of the high profile case and the fact that the prosecutors conceded that there was no evidence against Jean Juste.
Writing in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, human rights attorney Brian Concannon, who has prosecuted very high profile cases in Haiti, observed that “Jean-Juste has now faced charges under the Pr�val administration for as long as he did under the Latortue regime.”
According to Concannon a hundred political prisoners, much less prominent than Jean-Juste, continue to languish in Haitian prisons despite Preval’s election in 2006.
Jean-Juste needed police assistance to navigate through a large crowd of enthusiastic supporters outside the court house.