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28756: (news) Chamberlain: Former PM Neptune freed from jail (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Joseph Guyler Delva

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, July 27 (Reuters) - Former Haitian Prime
Minister Yvon Neptune was freed on Thursday from the prison where he was
held for more than two years on what he called imaginary charges after the
ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
     Frail from an on-and-off hunger strike, the 59-year-old walked out of
the National Penitentiary annex supported by two U.N. peacekeepers. They
helped him into an ambulance that took him to a U.N.-run hospital for a
     Neptune was never tried and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
     "It's not freedom yet," he told Reuters as he left the prison. "The
machinery of injustice didn't stop with my release today. The laboratories
that invented those kind of imaginary crimes are very strong."
     Human rights groups had repeatedly called on Haiti to free Neptune,
who was arrested in June 2004, a few months after the populist Aristide
gave up the presidency in the face of a bloody rebellion.
     Neptune was detained on accusations he masterminded what Aristide's
opponents called a massacre on Feb. 11, 2004, in La Scierie, a small
village near the western port city of St. Marc. U.N. investigators
characterized the incident as an armed clash with casualties on both sides.
     An appeals court ordered Neptune's release on Thursday and he was
escorted from the prison amid heavy security shortly afterward.
     Brian Concannon, a U.S. lawyer who has campaigned for his release,
said he believed Neptune had been freed on humanitarian grounds.
     "This is very good, but he's only been provisionally released. The
charges haven't been dropped," Concannon said.
     "An appeal of the charges is before the appeals court in Gonaives. The
prosecutor has recommended charges be dismissed because they are
     Neptune served under Aristide and was among hundreds of Aristide
supporters jailed by a U.S.-backed interim government after Aristide was
driven into exile.
     He said he had been on a hunger strike for the past 15 months,
consuming only liquids. Neptune expressed reservation his release was
unaccompanied by a declaration absolving him of wrongdoing. He said he bore
no hatred toward those who put him in prison but would continue to fight
for justice.
     "At a certain age, one should not be fighting for himself anymore. In
such cases he would be selfish," he said as he left the prison.
     "I am fighting for generations to come. ... The Haitian people show
that they know what freedom means, and they will continue to fight for
freedom, freedom not just for a few but for all."
     The order for his release was made public a day after Neptune talked
to reporters from his cell. He said then the government of President Rene
Preval, who took office in May, would be partly to blame if he died while
in prison on charges he called false and politically motivated.
     Among the hundreds of Aristide supporters jailed by the interim
government on vague charges, Concannon said only a few had been released.
     "There haven't been mass releases. There's been a trickle. I'd say
maybe 10 have gotten out," he said.
     Preval said recently about 100 had been released.