Reporters Without Borders hails the outcome of a two-day trial before a court of assizes in the southern town of Petit-Goâve in which two members of a local militia known as Domi nan Bwa were yesterday given life sentences for the murder of Radio Echo 2000 journalist Brignol Lindor on 3 December 2001.
Of the two other alleged militia members on trial , one was acquitted because of mistaken identity and the other got off on a technicality, because he was identified by the wrong first name. Reporters Without Borders regards this as an indication of shortcomings in the preparation of the trial. Six other members of the militia are due to be tried, but have not yet been arrested.
“The life sentences are proportionate to the particularly barbaric way Lindor was murdered,” the press freedom organisation said. “A trial, especially one of this importance, nonetheless needs a prosecution case that is complete and sound, and ensures that all those involved are present in the courtroom.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “We doubt that the order issued by the presiding judge regarding the six other militiamen charged in this case, who are still fugitives, will have a persuasive effect. They must be arrested quickly. We are still waiting to find out to what degree the former Petit-Goâve municipal authorities were involved in Lindor’s murder.”
The two defendants who received life sentences were Joubert Saint-Juste and Jean-Rémy Démosthčne (see picture below). For the time being, they are still being held in Petit-Goâve, but they could be transferred to the national penitentiary in Port-au-Prince to serve their sentences.
Simon Cétoute, 56, was acquitted because witnesses failed to identify him and because the court acknowledged that he had been arrested instead of one of his sons who recently died in the nearby town of Léogâne.
The case was dismissed against a fourth defendant, known as Fritznel Doudoute, because the first name, “Fritznel,” by which he was referred in the indictment, was not his real name, which is Lionel. Nonetheless, he was formally identified in court by witnesses as one of the participants in Lindor’s murder, and he could still be tried. Petit-Goâve state prosecutor Kébreau Zamor announced that a new case would be opened against.
A case could also be opened against Bony Dumay, Petit-Goâve deputy at the time of the murder, who is alleged to have incited violence against Lindor. He was a witness during the trial but so far he has never been charged.
In a statement to the press at the end of the trial, judge Emmanuel Tataye gave the six other Domi nan Bwa members, who were charged in 2002 and for whom arrests warrants are still pending, until 16 December to surrender, failing which they would be declared “rebels against the law” and would have “their rights as citizens suspended and their property seized.”