Monday, January 30, 2006

Freedom! Father Jean Juste released for treatment in Miami

After my mother spent hours and dollars faxing government officials in Washington and Port-Au-Prince, banned presidential candidate Father Gerry Jean Juste has been released from Haitian prison where he was being held without charges. Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti published the good news on , and the Miami Herald reports that Jean Juste has landed in Miami and arrived at Jackson Memorial Hospital to greetings from Paul Farmer and other doctors who will treat him for pneumonia and leukemia.

Concannon continues that
Fr. Gerry was granted a provisional release, which requires him to return to Haiti after the treatment to face the charges still pending against him. The current charges against him are as baseless as the other charges which have been dismissed. Fr. GerryÂ’s lawyers at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) have filed an appeal, asking for the charges to be dismissed. The appeals court can rule on the appeal without Fr. GerryÂ’s presence, so it is possible that the case will be dismissed without requiring him to return to court. If he is forced to return to court, the BAI lawyers will continue to fight the charges.

In the meantime, Fr. Gerry will be relatively safe, and will have his leukemia treated. Doctors who have examined him are hopeful that his disease is at a stage where it can be successfully treated, but they cannot be certain without more tests"

Adding to thank those like my mom
Today's victory proves the Haitian proverb, "men anpil, chay pa lou": many hands makes the load light. This mobilization has been by far the strongest and most persistent Haiti advocacy effort in the ten years that I have been involved in Haiti work. Everyone who called, faxed, wrote or emailed Haitian and US officials, everyone who signed a petition, everyone who forwarded information about Fr. Gerry to their church, their friends, and their family, should be proud. Close to a dozen human rights groups, over 50 members of the US Congress, and hundreds of religious, political and human rights leaders from all over the world joined together to make this moment possible.

Together we demonstrated that the world does care, that justice is possible, and that collective action does work. No small accomplishment.

Fr. Gerry said in a letter from prison on Friday: "understand that I wish you all to extend your support not only to me but to as many political prisoners as possible wherever on planet earth. Probably, you are aware that there are quite a number of political prisoners around the world. Think of them and keep them in your heartÂ…. I am very grateful to Amnesty International and to all of you for helping fight for the human rights of all political prisoners, here in Haiti and across the world. Let's keep the momentum on for justice, peace, love, and sharing to prevail all over the world as God wants it."

Unfortunately, neither Concannon's reporting norCaribbeanrribeanouletsutlents like the Miami Herald have mentioned asylum for Jean Juste. Why not? I know that the United States is extremely prejudiced against Haitians in the immigration process. I know that the U.S. government supports the coup government holding Jean-Juste hostage so much that dropped the embargo against Haiti as soon as the democratically elected president had been flown to Central Africa. But does Jean Juste have no legal recourse? Don't the reports of summary executions and political violence against the poor matter? Doesn't Jean Juste's status as one of the nations many political prisoners give him some government protection?

Seriously, Bill Quigley and other lawyers and judges out there, help me out. Is this not something important?

Is Jean Juste opposed to protection from deportation to Haitian prisons?

In any case, the illegitimate Haitian government and its U.S. American backers may have spared Jean Juste because of his high profile and the possibility that he would die in jail at any moment, but hundreds if not thousands of other political prisoners remain locked up on trumped up charges or without any judicial charges at all. These include other high profile hostage such as former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and popular folk singer So Anne.

On an interesting aside, Haiti Action reports that shortly before Jean Juste was released, "Reverend Jesse Jackson warned Gerard Latortue that he would be on the next plane to Haiti if the seriously ill Father Gerard Jean Juste was not released immediately for medical care." This was part of a written plea to the coup installed "Interim Prime Minister."

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