From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Feb 8 10:30:24 2001
Date: Wed, 7 Feb 2001 21:28:14 -0600 (CST)
From: IGC News Desk <email@example.com>
Subject: HAITI: Senators Baulk at Testifying in Journalist Assassination Case
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb 5 (IPS) - Haiti Inter, one of the country's major radio stations with ties to the government, has suspended its operations for three days in protest of remarks made by pro government senators opposed to the subpoena of Senator Dany Toussaint.
Toussaint was to testify before the magistrate investigating the assassination of Haiti Inter's Jean L. Dominique. The protest action ends Tuesday.
Toussaint was to appear before the judge to testify in an inquiry regarding the Apr. 3 killing of Dominique, the country's most famous political commentator and a close associate of President Rene Preval.
Dominique, 69, was shot seven times by an unidentified gunman. He was killed along, with his bodyguard, in the courtyard of the radio station, located in the eastern Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of Delmas.
Dominique was known as a journalist firmly committed to democracy.
Influential people from the business community, the opposition, and
even the present government did not escape his barbs, although he
considered himself an
independent member of the Lavalas movement.
Senator Toussaint answered only one of the three subpoenas he was issued to testify before the inquiry. He again did not answer the judge's summons last Wednesday. However, another senator who was called upon to testify, Jean Claude Delice, did appear. Delice was called because his car was spotted near the crime scene shortly after the assassination occurred.
The question being debated here is whether a judge has the power to subpoena legislators. Senators have expressed their intention to ignore such summonses.
Jurists, however, have entered a contrary opinion. They believe that the judge does indeed have such a prerogative, and that the senators are legally bound to appear. They are not being accused of a crime, but are merely being asked to testify like any other private citizen.
The President of the Senate, Yvon Neptune, maintains that the
constitution specifies certain procedures to be followed
in the case
of a judicial proceeding.
Article 115 of the 1987 Haitian Constitution indicates that
member of the legislative body can, during his mandate, be arrested
for a criminal, legal, or police matter for a violation of common law
without authorisation by the chamber to which he belongs, except if
caught in flagrante delicto.
Some parliamentarians have asked for the country's attorney general to be sacked. Others have indicated that he should be interrogated by the Senate or removed from office.
They're using the Dominique assassination as a tool to commit
character assassination. Today it's Toussaint. Tomorrow it'll be
somebody else, declared Gerard Gille, a senator from Toussaint's
Yvon Feuille, a senator whose brother, Deputy Hubert Feuille, was himself assassinated in 1995, wondered why the inquiry into the Dominique assassination was getting so much attention. Feuille asked the Senate to investigate what the judge's motives are in pushing the case.
Judge Claudy Garcan reported he received death threats from a deputy of the party in power just after Senator Toussaint's abortive summons was issued.
Michele Montas, Dominique's wife, said that the closing of the radio
crime and threats mean no more business as usual.
It's shocking that Jean Dominique could be assassinated while a
Lavalas government is in power. It shows you that the system has not
at all changed, declared Pierre Emmanuel, the news director at Haiti
Emmanuel said that
although Dominique was proud of being a Lavalas
member, he also created a space in which to be critical of Lavalas.
He was able to distance himself from many things the ruling party did
that he thought questionable.
The behaviour of Parliament is of great concern, declared Emmanuel, who says that the station still receives threats.
Most people believe that President Preval, whose term of office ends Feb. 7, is intent on fingering those he believes are involved in Dominique's assassination.
Informed sources have told IPS that the Lavalas party, however, considers implicating Toussaint in the assassination is a bad idea because of the negative impact it could have on the party, which is led by President-elect Jean Bertrand Aristide.
One of Aristide's immediate challenges when he takes office on Thursday will be opposition parties contesting last May's legislative, municipal and local elections, as well as the Nov. 26 presidential election results.
Aristide competed for the presidency against several little-known Haitian political figures and won.