[Marxism] Gerard Jean-Juste freed from jail in Haiti

Bill Hutton wsh291 at bellsouth.net
Wed Dec 1 20:08:43 MST 2004

In an earlier post to Marxmail (which I deleted) Jack Lieberman 
requested support in an effort to free Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste from jail 
in Haiti.  Jean-Juste had been an activist in the Haitian community in 
Miami before returning to Haiti.  This Miami Herald article reports on 
his release from jail.

Bill Hutton

Posted on Wed, Dec. 01, 2004

Joyful Jean-Juste: 'God has listened'


jcharles at herald.com

PORT-AU-PRINCE - A day after his release from seven weeks in prison, 
former Miami activist Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste is singing the praises of 
freedom. And so are his parishioners at St. Claire Roman Catholic Church 
in the Haitian capital.

''Prayer rises, grace descends,'' a smiling Jean-Juste told The Herald 
during a chat in his church office, a pink rosary around his neck. ``God 
has listened.''

Jailed 50 days ago on suspicion of fomenting violent protests in support 
of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Jean-Juste was released late 
Monday after a judge found no evidence to hold him.

He arrived home late Monday to a hero's welcome and a new fight: 
championing the rights of Haiti's political prisoners.

''I am happy for this vacation in jail,'' said the long-time Aristide 
supporter and former activist in Miami's Haitian communities. ``It's 
another life I didn't know.''

That life involved being forced to wear the same shirt he was arrested 
in for 48 days straight, and being shuffled to five different jails 
around Port-au-Prince as supporters and human rights activists decried 
his arrest.


He shared his first jail cell with 20 prisoners -- no toilet, no water. 
The last one he shared with Harold Severe, the pro-Aristide former 
assistant mayor of Port-au-Prince. His neighbors there included 
Louis-Jodel Chamblain, an accused murderer and one of the leaders of the 
armed rebellion that ousted Aristide on Feb. 29.

''We talked, we prayed. We used the same bucket to bathe,'' Jean-Juste 
said of his fellow prisoners, adding that despite their differing 
political ideologies there was a meeting of minds.

About 90 people have been killed in Haiti since September amid protests 
by armed Aristide loyalists demanding his return and attacks by 
anti-Aristide gunmen.

A Roman Catholic priest, Jean-Juste said he believes his arrest was 
God's way of using him to continue the fight on behalf of the Haitian 
people. His tenure behind bars, he said, only motivated him to continue 
demanding that basic human rights in Haiti be respected.

''Whoever violates [them] should expect to hear from me,'' he said, 
dressed in a beige guayabera, sweat dripping from his forehead. ``I know 
what is jail now. The next thing I have is death.''

In Miami, Jean Lafortune, president of the Haitian-American Grassroots 
Coalition, said he was happy about Jean-Juste's release but concerned 
about his safety.

''It's a big relief for the the Haitian community in South Florida,'' he 
said. ``The concern now is what happens next? . . . The atmosphere in 
the country is still unstable politically, so one must wonder if it is 
safe for him to stay in Haiti or leave.''

Miami-based activist Lucie Tondreau, who last year co-hosted a radio 
program in Haiti with Jean-Juste, said she felt ''elated'' over his release.

''They had nothing against him except that he was feeding the poor 
children at the parish,'' she said.


Also rejoicing were his parishioners in the Cazeau neighborhood of the 

On Monday evening and Tuesday morning, hundreds took to the streets to 
celebrate his return. His first act after getting out of the car Monday 
night: performing an impromptu Mass at St. Claire.

Tuesday evening, parishioners packed the pews once again to hear 
Jean-Juste speak. Afterward they danced in the aisle and embraced him to 
the sound of beating drums.

''We are still celebrating our victory,'' said 21-year-old Wadner 
Pierre, who videotaped the homecoming.

And while Jean-Juste said he has forgiven his accusers, he didn't mince 
words in his criticism of the U.S.-backed interim government that 
replaced Aristide and has now allegedly thrown scores of his loyalists 
in prison.

Instead of rallying the Haitian people to new elections upon their 
arrival in office, the interim government divided the society, 
Jean-Juste said.

''Aristide is still the president of Haiti until February 7, 2006. He is 
my president,'' Jean-Juste added. ``He was kidnapped on February 29, 
2004, and he's been replaced by an illegal, unconstitutional de facto 

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will visit Haiti today to reaffirm 
U.S. support for a democratic transition and review American efforts to 
help the country recover from catastrophic floods earlier this year.

About 5,700 U.N. peacekeepers are in the country to help provide 
security. But challenges remain, as violence between Aristide supporters 
and police has sporadically flared.

Herald staff writer Karl Ross contributed to this report from Miami.


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