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24952: (news) Chamberlain: Haiti-Former Premier (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By ARIANA CUBILLOS
PORT-AU-PRINCE, May 2 (AP) -- A former prime minister on a hunger strike
refused to leave for medical treatment in the Dominican Republic, demanding
instead his unconditional release from house arrest, the government said
Yvon Neptune, who has been held without charge for 10 months in
connection with political killings during the February 2004 rebellion that
ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was scheduled to be taken
to a hospital in the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo.
Neptune, 58, refused medical evacuation to the neighboring
Spanish-speaking country, according to an interim Haitian government
statement obtained Monday by The Associated Press. He renewed a hunger
strike 13 days ago and some say his condition is critical.
"Yvon Neptune said he won't accept the medical evacuation unless all the
charges leveled against him have been withdrawn," the statement says. "Such
a demand is absolutely unacceptable. Mr. Yvon Neptune remains at the
disposal of the judicial system for the pursuit of the investigation."
The interim government accuses Neptune of orchestrating the killings of
Aristide opponents in the western town of St. Marc during the rebellion.
Neptune has not seen a judge and has not heard the charges against him,
although Haitian law says he should have within 48 hours after his arrest,
said lawyer Mario Joseph, who works with the pro-Aristide Defense of
Political Prisoners Group.
Neptune, who served as prime minister when Aristide was president,
denies the allegations against him.
Interim government officials for months have resisted international
pressure to release Neptune, unwilling to give in to what some are calling
the blackmail of a hunger strike.
"There is no legal explanation for Neptune's prolonged detention. The
only explanation is that the government wants to keep its political enemy
in prison as long as possible," Joseph said. "He is purely and simply
demanding his release."
Joseph said Neptune was continuing his hunger strike and that his
condition was "critical and worsening."
Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and his justice minister could
not be reached for further comment on Monday -- a national holiday.
Haiti has been in turmoil since Aristide fled the country. More than 600
people have been killed since Aristide supporters in September stepped up
protests to demand his return from exile in South Africa. Many fear the
violence could thwart efforts to hold elections in October and November.
Neptune was still under house arrest Monday in a luxury suburb, where he
was moved earlier this month after being hospitalized to recover from a
19-day hunger strike, Joseph said. Neptune resumed the hunger strike 13
Latortue's office said Saturday night he had appointed a cardiologist,
urologist and psychiatrist to tend to Neptune but that Haitian law forbids
force-feeding a person who is conscious and refuses nourishment.
Neptune initially was considered a traitor by Aristide loyalists when he
handed power to an interim president, Chief Justice Boniface Alexandre,
within days of Aristide's Feb. 29, 2004, flight as rebels converged on
Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.
At the time, he resisted pressure to go into exile from diplomats and
interim government officials installed after U.S. troops arrived.
After his arrest in June, he became a rallying point for both militants
demanding the release of hundreds of Aristide officials and loyalists
jailed without charge, and for human rights activists demanding he be
Associated Press writers Michael Norton in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and
Jose P. Monegro in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, contributed to this