Judge urges nine be charged in high-profile political assassination of Haitian journalist

01/18/2014 3:01 PM

01/18/2014 9:08 PM

An investigative judge looking into the high-profile political assassination of Haiti's most well-known journalist, Jean Léopold Dominique, is asking that nine individuals be charged in his 2000 murder, including an ex-senator from former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's political party.

Judge Yvickel Dabresil's recommendation on who should be held responsible for Dominique’s assassination was made public Friday when it was officially handed over to a three-judge Appeals Court panel and read in court. The appeals court can formally bring charges.

Aristide was not among those named, but close supporters of the former Roman Catholic priest turned president have been. They include Mirlande Libérus, a former senator from Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas political party. She is said to be the person tasked with silencing Dominique, who had become a harsh critic of Aristide and corruption within his party.

In April 2000, Dominique and a security guard were both gunned down by unidentified gunmen in the courtyard of the journalist's Radio Haiti Inter station in Port-au-Prince. Dominique's death and life as an agronomist who became a champion for the poor later became the subject of the critically-acclaimed documentary the Agronomist by American filmmaker Jonathan Demme.

Dominique's widow Michèle Montas called the indictments "a positive step, almost 10 years after I went to the appellate court to demand that the intellectual authors, those who ordered and planned the crime be identified."

Montas, a former spokeswoman for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said she could not comment on the report itself because she had not seen it. She has been instrumental in keeping the case alive over the years.

Haitian journalist Guyler Delva, who heads a commission investigating murdered journalists, said he was disappointed that the report didn't go further in naming Aristide as part of the conspiracy.

"If you have to indict the lady who received the order, how about the one who gave it to her?" Delva said. "There is no logic."

Delva, who had been following the case, said Libérus lives in the United States and had refused to come to Haiti to testify, citing immigration concerns.

"The lady should find a way to come to Haiti; there is a case that needs to be solved and Aristide has some very serious questions to answer in that matter," he said.

Aristide's spokeswoman Dr. Maryse Narcisse said Saturday she could not comment on a report she had not seen, and that the party had not received any legal notification of the report.

Aristide party supporters have questioned the timing of the news and it's delivery -- over Haitian radio -- and whether it's a political maneuver on the part of the Haitian government, which has been at odds with opposition parties over the staging of long overdue legislative and local elections.

In May, Aristide testified behind closed doors for three hours. He used the occasion to make a rare public appearance in Haiti, attracting thousands of sympathizers into the streets of Port-au-Prince. Aristide returned to Haiti on the eve of its 2011 runoff presidential elections after seven years in exile in South Africa.

In addition to Arisitide, Dabresil had also summoned former President René Préval to give testimony. He and Dominique were best friends. Préval was president at the time of Dominique's assassination. He ordered the murder investigation, which had passed through more than a half dozen judges, reopened during his second presidential term, 2006-2011.

In addition to Libérus, the others named in the judge’s report are: Gabriel Harold Sévère, Annette "So Anne" Auguste, Frantz Camille, Jeudy Jean Daniel, Markenton Michel, Toussaint Mercidieu, Mérité Milien and Dimsley Milien.

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