While welcoming the trial of Radio Echo 2000 reporter Brignol Lindor’s alleged murders on principle, Reporters Without Borders said today it feared the course of justice could be perverted because six of the 10 defendants have not been arrested and will therefore not be in court. The trial is due to open on 10 December in Petit-Gôave, the southern town where Lindor lived and worked, and where he was murdered six years ago.
“The Lindor murder was a national trauma and has waited too long to come to trial,” the press freedom organisation said. “The fact that the trial is taking place at all reflects a real political will to put an end to a scandalous level of impunity. Nonetheless, we think a case such as this needs to be handled better. The trial is good for justice in principle, but may not be good for the search for the truth.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “The six being tried in absentia will, by definition, be unable to answer for their actions before the court. While the four who are present could try to put the blame on the other six, although they could themselves end up taking the entire rap. Bearing in mind, too, that threats have been made against the prosecutor, who is also concerned about the outcome of the case, we think the conditions for a satisfactory trial have not been met.”
The 10 defendants are members of a local armed militia called Domi Nan Bwa (Sleep in the Bush) that was particularly active during Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s second presidential term. They were charged with this particularly barbaric murder in 2002 at the end of a judicial investigation that failed to clearly identify all those involved.
Of the four defendants who will be in court, three were arrested earlier this year after warrants were issued by Petit-Goâve state prosecutor Kébreau Zamor. They are Joubert Saint-Juste (arrested on 28 March and held at the national penitentiary in Port-au-Prince), Simon Cétoute (arrested on 24 October and held in Petit-Goâve) and Jean-Rémy Démosthčne (arrested on 26 October and also held in Petit-Goâve).
The fourth man is Fritznel Doudoute, who was arrested on 28 December 2005 in nearby Miragôane and is now being held in Carrefour prison, outside Port-au-Prince.
The trial was originally scheduled to start on 3 December, the sixth anniversary of Lindor’s murder. When the postponement was announced, Zamor told Reporters Without Borders he was concerned about the infrastructural problems in Petit-Goâve and the difficulty of preparing for the trial in the time available. He also said he and his family had received death threats.
30.11.07 - Trial of journalist’s alleged murderers postponed one week
The start of the trial of the alleged murderers of Radio Echo 2000 journalist Brignol Lindor has been postponed until 10 December. It was supposed to have started in the southern town of Petit-Goâve on 3 December, on the sixth anniversary of his murder.
“Six of the defendants are fugitives from justice and will be tried in absentia,” Reporters Without Borders was told by Petit-Goâve state prosecutor Kerby Zamor. “The other four alleged killers are in detention in Petit-Goâve, Carrefour and Port-au-Prince.”
Zamor said he and his family had received death threats. He also complained that Petit-Goâve lacked the necessary infrastructure for a trial of this scale.
“We take note of this postponement and we hope this additional delay will allow time for the arrest of the six accused who are on the run,” Reporters Without Borders said. “In view of the imminence of the trial, we again express the hope that it will not be rushed or botched, and thereby fail to shed light on all those who had a role in Lindor’s especially barbaric murder.”
16.11.07 - Four arrested in journalist’s murder as trial nears
Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the arrest of four suspected killers of radio journalist Brignol Lindor, of Radio Echo 2000, on the eve of a trial set to begin on 3 December, six years to the day after he was hacked to death in the southwestern town of Petit-Goâve. Six other suspects ordered arrested early this month remain at large. The worldwide press freedom organisation regretted such last-minute moves and warned against a a hasty trial that might gloss over the responsibility of some people for Brignol’s death.
“This murder is one of the most barbarous killings of a journalist ever seen in the Americas and the arrest for the first time of four of the 10 long-accused members of the Domi Nan Bwa (“Sleep in the Woods”) militia, as well as the upcoming trial, gives hope that impunity in this disgraceful crime may end,” it said. “But why has it taken so long for these locally well-known people to be picked up? The trial must determine exactly who was responsible for the murder. The short time remaining before the trial raises the danger that it may be hurried, sham or flawed, which must be avoided at all cost.“
Petit-Goâve public prosecutor Kerby Zamor told Reporters Without Borders on 14 November he had issued warrants for the arrest of 10 Domi Nan Bwa members who were charged on 16 September 2002.
Two of the accused were arrested and jailed late last month, bringing the number detained to four - Fritz Doudoute (held in Carrefour, west of the capital), Joubert Saint-Juste (held in Port-au-Prince) and Simon Cétoute and Jean-Rémy Démosthčne (both held in Petit-Goâve).
The then Petit-Goâve deputy mayor, Bony Dumay, made a fierce verbal attack on Lindor and his alleged friends in the opposition group Democratic Convergence at a press conference in the town on 29 November 2001 called by backers of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, including the mayor, Emmanuel Antoine. Town officials met activists of the pro-Aristide Domi Nan Bwa on 2 December, the day before the murder. Next morning, Duverger, one the militia’s leaders, was attacked by supposed Convergence supporters and this was used as an excuse to take revenge on Lindor. A dozen militia members were about to kill Convergence member Love Augustin at his home when they let him go and instead killed Lindor when he arrived on the scene.
Despite these facts, the September 2002 charges made by Judge Fritzner Duclair avoided targetting any of those suspected of ordering the killing. Petit-Goâve town officials have never been drawn into the case.