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26831: (news) Chambverlain: Haiti-Supreme Court (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 9 (AP) -- Haiti's interim government said Friday it
has removed five of the 10 judges from the Supreme Court, another move in a
tense power struggle ahead of next month's national elections.
The decision came a day after the court ruled to uphold an earlier
decision allowing a Haitian-born U.S. multimillionaire to run for president
in his native country.
Michel Brunache, chief of staff for interim President Boniface
Alexandre, said the government's decision to retire the judges was made
long ago. It was signed during a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday and five new
judges have been nominated.
"This is a purely administrative measure, to improve the efficiency of
the court," Brunache told The Associated Press.
The interim government, in power since a bloody rebellion ousted
Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, has been intent on preventing the
candidacy of the U.S. businessman Dumarsais Simeus, on grounds that it
could create a political crisis.
Though the constitution does not allow dual citizenship, the Supreme
Court ruled in October that authorities had not proven that Simeus was a
U.S. citizen and said he should run.
The interim government later created a nationality commission that
excluded Simeus from the list of 35 candidates allowed to run for
president. The Supreme Court's upholding of its earlier ruling on Thursday
was seen by some observers as a blow to the government's decision.
Two of the five retired judges were part of the five-judge panel that
had unanimously ruled in favor of Simeus in their decision published on
"This is a purely arbitrary measure," retired Supreme Court judge Michel
Donatien told The Associated Press.
Donatien said he had been working at the court until earlier Friday and
had learned about his retirement via the media. He questioned the interim
president's right to retire judges since he was not elected to office.
Simeus, 65, the son of illiterate rice farmers, left Haiti at the age of
21 for the United States., where he became the multimillionaire owner of
Simeus Foods in Texas.
The first electoral poll in Haiti, published Friday, stated he was the
Haitians' second favorite choice for president, behind front-runner Rene
Preval. The two polled far ahead of the other candidates.