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26854: Hermantin(News)Protest calls for the release of Haitian priest from jail (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Protest calls for the release of Haitian priest from jail
By Kevin Smith
December 11, 2005
Miami · Because one man in Haiti cannot walk free, more than 1,000 marched
through the streets of Miami on Saturday afternoon.
Chanting in both English and Creole, supporters of jailed priest the Rev.
Gerard Jean-Juste walked from the Torch of Friendship to the Claude Pepper
Federal Building and back calling for his release. The signs they carried
described Jean-Juste as Haiti's Martin Luther King Jr.
"This is a very big issue," said Yves Lucien of Miami. "Father Jean-Juste was
the one taking care of the poor kids in Haiti. Putting him in jail means they
aren't eating, and to hold him without charges is just wrong."
Jean-Juste's incarceration, which began with his arrest in July, stems from his
alleged connection to the kidnapping and murder of a Haitian journalist, but he
has not been charged with any crime. As a member of the political party of
deposed Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide, Jean-Juste was considered a
possible nominee in the nation's oft-delayed presidential election, now
scheduled for next month.
"He's worked hard for the Haitian community, both in here and in Haiti," said
Yves Leclaire of Miami, who walked with a son on either side. "He's been there
every day for Haitians, the poor especially. He's got a mission, and it's to
The 80-minute march, which included about 20 minutes of singing and chanting
outside the federal building, took place beneath signs bearing Jean-Juste's
picture and Haitian flags of all sizes.
One sign read "President Bush: Free Fr. Jean-Juste," and Marie Pubien of
Hollywood said Saturday's march was intended to send a message not to the
island nation to the south, but to this nation's Capitol to the north.
"Washington has to do something about this," she said. "George Bush has the
power to pick up the phone and have all those people put out of jail."
While some in the crowd agreed with Pubien, others thought it was up to
government officials in Haiti.
"The pressure really needs to be felt by those responsible for Father
Jean-Juste being in jail," said Jean Monestime, a friend of the priest's and a
former North Miami city councilman. "They can make the decision to free him.
There is a thirst in the Haitian community for freedom, and when we see that
someone of the caliber of Father Jean-Juste is in jail for nothing, we all see
that freedom isn't there. They should charge him or they should free him, and
they haven't done either."
Monestime was one of several speakers after the march, imploring those gathered
to be tireless in calling for freedom for Jean-Juste and all of Haiti's
political prisoners. There was no guarantee the passion of those gathered would
be enough to free their friend, but passion was their only weapon, one man
said, and they were prepared to use it.
"If we could, we'd go to the jail and take him," said Lucien. "But we can't, so
we stand up here for what is right."
Kevin Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-572-2009.
Copyright © 2005, South Florida Sun-Sentinel