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25862: Haiti Progres: (news) This Week in Haiti 23:20 7/27/2005 (fwd)
From: Haïti Progrès <email@example.com>
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
July 27 - August 2, 2005
Vol. 23, No. 20
HAITIAN PRIEST ASSAULTED BY MOB AT FUNERAL AND ARRESTED FOR MURDER
by Bill Quigley
On Thursday, July 21, 2005, Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste went to St. Pierre's
Catholic Church to be one of the priests participating in the funeral of
Haitian journalist Jacques Roche. Fr. Jean-Juste is a cousin of the
Roche family and members of the Roche family protected him from a mob
earlier in his life. He went to express spiritual comfort and
reconciliation to the family.
The tragic kidnaping and death of Jacques Roche have been taken up as a
cause by those opposed to the Lavalas party. Jacques Roche was
identified as a supporter of the people calling themselves the Group of
184, who overthrew by force the democratically elected government of
President Aristide, the leader of the Lavalas party, in February 2004.
Opponents of Aristide say that Jacques Roche was executed by the Lavalas
party because his body was found on July 14 in a poor neighborhood,
where Lavalas support is very strong. For those of us in the US, this is
much like blaming John Kerry for inner city deaths because most of the
people in the inner city vote for the Democratic Party.
Father Jean-Juste went to the funeral expressly to pay his respects to
the family and to express his open remorse and opposition to any killing
of anyone, no matter what their political affiliation.
Jacques Roche's coffin was in the chapel next to the sacristy and main
area of the church. At 10 a.m., the bishop and about seven priests robed
in white with purple stoles or sashes paraded out of the sacristy of the
church to the chapel next to the main area of the church to say
blessings over the coffin of Jacques Roche.
When Fr. Jean-Juste walked out, people started yelling at him in the
chapel. They called him "assassin" and "criminal" and yelled out to
"arrest and kill the rat."
Fr. Jean-Juste has been publicly accused in the last several days of "a
plot against the security of the state," of smuggling money and guns
into the country, and of being behind all the kidnappings. These are all
clearly false charges but widely reported by unfriendly press.
People knew Fr. Jean-Juste was coming to the funeral because it was
printed on the front page of a conservative newspaper the day before.
As the well-dressed people continued yelling at Fr. Jean-Juste, the
prayer service nearly turned into a riot. The other priests turned to
leave and a well-dressed crowd of screaming people surrounded him. I
went out to be by his side. Some plain-clothes security people and a few
priests surrounded us and helped push us through the increasingly
hostile crowd back into the church sacristy.
The other priests then persuaded Fr. Jean-Juste not to continue in the
funeral service. So we stood aside as the priests and the funeral crowd
filed past us into the main church.
Well-dressed men and women continued to scream and threaten Fr. Gerry as
they moved by us into the church. Then a crowd of 15 or 20 or more young
men, not dressed at all for the funeral, came into the sacristy and the
mood turned uglier and more menacing. At that point, the security forces
The young men continued the screaming started by the well-dressed people
and then started pushing and hitting PPre Jean-Juste. At that point, a
young woman came out of the funeral crowd and embraced Fr. Jean-Juste,
shielding him with her body from the blows and the increasingly loud and
angry young men. She started praying loudly and saying "mon pPre, mon
A man in a suit, who identified himself as head of security for the
funeral, rushed back in from the church area - only a few feet away and
in plain view - and told Fr. Gerry that these people were going to kill
him there in the sacristy unless he fled. Fr. Jean-Juste knelt to pray,
and the woman and I knelt with him in the middle of the growing crowd.
At that point, people started slapping Fr. Jean-Juste on the head and
face and spitting on him, the woman and myself. Something then hit Fr.
Jean-Juste in the head. Someone punched him in the eye. We stood up and
a few UN CIVPOL officers showed up to help us leave the sacristy of the
church. As we tried to get to the stairs, people continued pushing and
screaming and shouting threats. They continued to call out "assassin,"
"criminal," and "kill the rat." The crowd now overwhelmed the police.
More people spit on us and hit Fr. Gerry, even in the face, while others
were grabbing his church vestments trying to drag him off the church
The CIVPOL were trying to hold back the crowd but were still well
outnumbered and unable to halt the mob. We moved up the steps into a
narrow dark corridor while the crowd pushed and shoved and spit and hit.
We then retreated into a smaller corridor and finally to a dead end that
contained two small concrete toilet stalls.
The three of us were pushed into the stalls as the crowd banged on the
walls and doors of the stalls and continued screaming. The woman held
the door closed and prayed loudly as the people outside roared and the
CIVPOL called for reinforcements.
After a few minutes, reinforcements arrived and the hallway was finally
cleared of all but us and the authorities.
A man in a suit identifying himself as secretary for security for Haiti
told us that he was going to have to arrest Fr. Jean-Juste because
public clamor had identified him as the assassin of journalist Jacques
Roche. The police would bring him to the police station for his own
safety. Fr. Jean-Juste told the man that he was in Florida when the
journalist was killed, and he wanted to return to St. Claire church, his
parish. The man left, escorting out the woman who helped us.
In a few minutes, CIVPOL police, including troops from Jordan,
surrounded me and Fr. Jean-Juste and then ran us out of the church to a
police truck. The truck, carrying police armed with machine guns, sped
away from the church and took us not to Fr. Gerry's parish but to the
police station in Pétionville.
For the next seven or eight hours, we were kept in a room while the UN
forces and the Haitian forces negotiated about what to do. Fr. Gerry
read his prayer book while we waited. We were told informally that the
UN wanted to escort Fr. Jean-Juste back to his parish, but the Haitian
government was insisting that he be arrested.
The attackers were allowed to go free and were not arrested, but they
wanted to arrest the victim!
Fr. Gerry told me: "This is all a part of the death sentence called down
upon me on the radio in Miami. The searches at the airport, the visits
to the police stations, the mandate to appear before a criminal judge
yesterday, and now this. It is all part of the effort to silence my
voice for democracy."
At about 6 p.m., several Haitian officers came into our room and ordered
Fr. Gerry and I and Haitian attorney Mario Joseph to come with them.
The officers held out a piece of paper that they said was an official
complaint against Fr. Gerry accusing him of being the assassin of
Jacques Roche. The complaint was based on "public clamor" at the funeral
identifying him as the murderer. They refused to let Fr. Jean-Juste or
the lawyers see this paper. It was their obligation, they said, to
investigate this public clamor identifying him as the murderer. If Fr.
Jean-Juste chose not to talk with them, they would put him in jail
Fr. Jean-Juste agreed to the interrogation, and it went on for over
three hours. He was growing increasingly sore and tired from the beating
he took, but was not bleeding externally. When the lawyers argued with
the police, Fr. Gerry read his prayer book.
The police already knew that Fr. Jean-Juste was in Florida at the time
of the kidnapping and death of the journalist, because the police had
already interviewed him several times in the last few days in connection
with the other false allegations against him, but asked him many
questions anyway. How many cell phones did he have? What is his exact
relation to Jacques Roche? Why did he go to the funeral? Can he prove he
was in Florida? Since he was on the news in Florida, can he provide a
copy of the news tape showing he was in Florida? When Aristide was
president, was he provided with armed security? What happened to the
pistols that his security had? Could he find out and have any pistols
returned to the government? Did Lavalas promise Aristide to execute
someone from the Group of 184 in retaliation for them taking power? When
was the last time he was in the US? Are the Catholic sisters in Bel-Air
with you when you go to demonstrations there? and on and on. After over
three hours, the interrogation finished.
With great solemnity the police told Fr. Jean-Juste that he was being
charged with participating in the death of Jacques Roche and not
returning state property. They said the law demands that he be brought
before a judge within 48 hours for further decision.
At exactly 10 p.m., Fr. Gerry handed me his keys and church vestments
and was locked into the jail cell at Pétionville with many, many others.
He was holding a pink plastic rosary, his prayer book and a roll of
He flashed a tired smile and told me: "Now you see what we are up
against in Haiti. If they treat me like this, think how they treat the
poor people. Tell everyone that with the help of God and everyone else I
will keep up the good fight. Everyone else should continue to fight for
democracy as well. The truth will come out. I am innocent of all
charges. I will be free soon. Freedom for Haiti is coming. The struggle
As I left him, a very tired Fr. Gérard Jean-Juste was being greeted by
all the prisoners in the very crowded jail cell as "mon pPre!"
Bill Quigley is a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and is
co-counsel for Jean-Juste with Mario Joseph and the Institute for
Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Progres.