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Files Disappear in Haitian Reporter Slay
Monday December 13, 2004
By AMY BRACKEN
Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Some documents associated with the slaying of a famed Haitian journalist have disappeared, thwarting efforts to solve the case and angering rights groups.
The investigation into the death of Jean Dominique - a radio journalist who became increasingly critical of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government before being shot in 2000 - has been plagued with problems, including the deaths of two suspects and the resignation of two investigating judges who had received death threats.
The most recent hurdle came with the disappearance of the courthouse documents last week, according to Haiti's interim Justice Minister Bernard Gousse.
It wasn't immediately clear if th
e documents had disappeared because of disorganization or negligence, or if they had been stolen.
Michele Montas, the journalist's widow, suspected foul play.
"It's an alarming situation,'' Montas told The Associated Press on Monday. "This means someone with power, someone that acted before to block the investigation, had the connections to get inside the court to get rid of all the evidence.''
Shortly after the first investigation began into her 69-year-old husband's death, one suspect was killed in mysterious circumstances in police custody and another was killed by a mob that attacked a police station where he was being held outside the capital.
Haiti's U.S.-backed interim government, which replaced Aristide after he fled a three-week rebellion in February, has been hamstrung to rebuild the police force and judiciary, which was depleted of personnel and equipment after Aristide and his supporters left.
Although interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has pledg
ed to revive the investigation, his government has yet to appoint a new investigating judge for the case.
"We have a government that says ending impunity is a priority, but it has made no improvement in that area,'' said Pierre Esperance of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights.
Esperance said the case has been obstructed several times in the past four years, including the Haitian Senate's declaration that it would not waive parliamentary immunity for one of the key suspects, former Sen. Dany Toussaint, who has since started a new political party.
Regis Bourgeat, with the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, said the disappearance of the documents showed "carelessness'' on the part of the government.
"We would have expected the Haitian government to take all the measures to put such a sensitive file in a safe place or to give it the protection it deserves,'' Bourgeat said.
Montas, who herself fled from Haiti after receiving death threats for continuing to b
roadcast at her husband's station Radio Haiti Inter and after her bodyguard was killed, helped Jonathon Demme produce a recent documentary about her husband's life called The Agronomist.
She heads the francophone radio division for the United Nations.
"It's no longer about who killed Jean Dominique,'' Montas said from New York in a telephone interview. "It's about who took those papers. When we know that, then we have a clear trail on the people who killed Jean Dominique.''