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28479: Holmstead(news): Haitian ex-minister freed from jail (fwd)

FROM: John Holmstead

Haitian ex-minister freed from jail

19 Jun 2006


By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, June 19 (Reuters) - Haitian
authorities released a former government minister who
was jailed for more than two years on murder
accusations, and they could soon free other
high-profile prisoners who served under former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a prosecutor said on

Jocelerme Privert, Aristide's interior minister, was
released on Friday after a prosector said there was no
evidence of wrongdoing.

Privert said he was a victim of a political conspiracy
by the U.S.-backed interim government of former Prime
Minister Gerard Latortue, who was installed after
Aristide was ousted in an armed revolt in February

"Thanks to God I am free now after 26 months of
political persecutions and injustice," Privert told
Reuters and radio station Melodie FM.

Privert was arrested on April 6, 2004, and jailed on
accusations that he was the mastermind behind what
Aristide's opponents called a massacre on Feb. 11,
2004, in La Scierie, a small village near the northern
town of St-Marc. Privert has denied the accusations.

"I spent all this time in jail just because there were
authorities who wanted to have their political
revenge," he said.

Former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and a former
legislator from Aristide's Lavalas Family party,
Amanus Mayette, are among others held on similar
accusations and expected to be released. A prosecutor
working on the case has demanded that an appeals court
dismiss the charges for lack of evidence. The court
has yet to rule.

Several hundred of Aristide's supporters were arrested
and jailed by the interim administration on vague
charges of wrongdoing.

Many of the jailed Aristide allies were not brought
before a judge for long periods of time, in violation
of Haiti's laws and constitution, and U.N. officials
have said most of the detentions are illegal.

The interim government has repeatedly denied it
persecuted Aristide's allies.

A new government led by Prime Minister Jacques Edouard
Alexis was inaugurated on June 9, after the first
presidential and legislative election held in the
troubled Caribbean country since Aristide fled.

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