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25119: Hermantin(News) Meek sees ex-leader in prison (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Posted on Tue, May. 17, 2005
Meek sees ex-leader in prison
Miami Congressman Kendrick Meek visited former Haiti Premier Yvon Neptune in
the 31st day of his hunger strike.
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
A single candle burns inside a Port-au-Prince prison annex where former
Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune is entering the 31st day of a hunger
strike to protest his detention by Haiti's interim U.S.-backed government.
Once head of Haiti's senate and former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's
Lavalas Family Party, Neptune stands accused of orchestrating a massacre in
the town of St. Marc during the February 2004 rebellion that helped topple
The charge and Neptune's hunger strike -- his second since he was jailed in
June -- have caused an international outcry, and Miami-based U.S. Rep.
Kendrick Meek went to Haiti this week to try to resolve the impasse.
''He is weak, his voice is very faded,'' said Meek, who represents one of
the largest Haitian-American constituencies, and who visited Neptune as well
as Haitian leaders Sunday and Monday. ``I thought I would find him in better
Neptune claims the charge is politically motivated.
He refused to appear at a court hearing following his arrest last June, and
when he finally did appear, the judge in the case refused to handle the
matter, peeved at Neptune's defiant attitude. Haitian courts have since done
little, if anything, to advance the case.
Neptune, who is demanding an unconditional release, recently refused a deal
that would have allowed him to go to the neighboring Dominican Republic.
He did, however, agree to take liquids as efforts continue to find a
compromise in what has become a high-stakes chess game involving a weak
interim government and a politician who is a poster child for Aristide
supporters in their campaign to restore their ousted government.
Neptune claims he is being held only because of his ties to Aristide, who is
now in exile in South Africa.
Neptune, who complained about alleged mistreatment at the facility, said he
wants security for his life. He laughed at a recent suggestion on Haitian
radio that he was fit enough to go jogging.
''He is not a skeleton, but he's close to it,'' said John Schelble, Meek's
chief of staff.
Neither Meek nor Schelble would go so far as to say that Neptune was near
death, as his supporters have maintained. But they also wouldn't endorse a
recent report by Haiti's interim government quoting government doctors as
saying Neptune was healthy.
''He wants the same rights as any other Haitian,'' Meek said, adding that
Neptune's voice is now diminished to a whisper. ``He doesn't want to leave
Neptune's bed is a thin mattress spread on the floor next to three chairs.
His only comforts: a small transmitter radio with headphone, a pair of
reading glasses, a journal and the Haitian Constitution.
In discussions with interim Haitian President Boniface Alexandre, Prime
Minister Gerard Latortue and Justice Minister Bernard Gousse, Meek stressed
that Haiti could not afford to have Neptune die on its hands.
ELECTIONS AT RISK
Meek argued that such an event could affect Haiti's ability to hold upcoming
elections as well as international support for Haiti as it strives to
rebound from Aristide's ouster.
''Their inaction could very well hurt the chances of positive aid for
Haiti,'' said Meek, who called on Haiti's troubled judicial system to do its
The Florida congressman also told Neptune, who continues to fight efforts to
go before a judge, that he, too, bears responsibility.
''I told him, if he dies in that prison annex, he would allow others to
interpret his purpose,'' Meek said.