Haitian priest Jean-Juste arrested

Haitian police arrested former political prisoner Father Gerald Jean-Juste July 21 and are holding him in Port-au-Prince’s Haitian National Penitentiary. Witnesses reported that the anti-Lavalas “Group of 184” supporters brutally assaulted Jean-Juste July 21 at the funeral of murdered journalist Jacques Roche. Police and UN forces moved in to protect Jean-Juste and then escorted him to a waiting police vehicle. He was taken to a nearby police station and placed in custody.

While it was initially reported that police had charged Jean-Juste with murdering Roche and “failure to return state property,” legal advisor Bill Quigley, a law professor at New Orlean’s Loyola University, stated that the newest charges against Jean-Juste are “public denunciation” and “inciting to violence.”

“These charges are as groundless as the prior ones — but are still not in writing and will probably change again,” remarked Quigley, who accompanied Jean-Juste after police arrested him.

According to the Catholic priest’s lawyer, Mario Joseph, there is no basis in the law for the charges against his client. The Haitian News Agency reported that a source close to the Latortue government indicated that some sectors [within the regime] are trying to create “legal arguments” to justify Jean-Juste’s detention.

This is not the first time that Jean-Juste has been arrested. Police arrested the Catholic priest November 5, 2004, and held him for 48 days until a campaign launched by international human rights groups forced authorities to release him. The outspoken Catholic priest has been a thorn in the side of the coup-installed government. He has campaigned within and without Haiti for the release of political prisoners, the restoration of constitutional order and the return of elected President Jean Betrand Aristide. Recently he was in Miami leading protests against the Latortue regime and UN military forces in Haiti.