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Haiti21 August 2002

Judicial police director makes worrying statements about journalist Jacky Cantave’s abduction

Reporters Without Borders today voiced its deep concern about the statements made by Judicial Police Director Jeannot François at a press conference on 19 August in which he cast doubt on journalist Israël Jacky Cantave’s account of his recent kidnapping and suggested that it could have been fabricated.

The organisation called on François to present evidence to back up this claim, which contradicts earlier police statements on the abduction. "Without supporting evidence, these statements are unacceptable", Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. "They make Israël Jacky Cantave out to be a liar, and his abductors could regard them as legitimizing a new attack." A journalist with Radio Caraïbes FM, Cantave was kidnapped along with a friend, Frantz Ambroise, on 15 July.

At his 19 August press conference, François said the initial results of the enquiry cast doubt on Cantave’s version and did not exclude the possibility that the entire affair was fabricated. The Judicial Police Central Directorate (DCPJ) is supposed to provide the public prosecutor’s office with a second report on the case shortly.

François said three elements contradicted Cantave’s account. Firstly, the medical reports of three different doctors spoke only of light bruising and found "no trace of measurable injury which would prove that they had suffered ill-treatment". Secondly, their vehicle had been in a collision, but only once, in the morning of 15 July, that is to say, prior to their abduction. Finally, a witness had testified to the presence of other persons in the vehicle at the time of the kidnapping, something Cantave and Ambroise had not mentioned.

Cantave and his radio station rejected François’ claims and pointed out the contradictions with the judicial police’s earlier statements. The station’s director, Patrick Moussignac, said the police already had the medical reports at the time of the press conference of the week before, in which the police recognized that the two men had been subjected to physical abuse. Furthermore, both the report of Dr. Patrick René Pierre, the doctor who attended to Cantave and his friend at the time of their admission to hospital, and the report of the doctor chosen by the radio station spoke of "traumatisms" in the two men. The radio station’s doctor also mentioned a "cardiovascular impairment, probably stress-related". The third medical report, that of a forensic doctor, has not been released. Cantave pointed out that the radio station had to insist repeatedly before its chosen doctor was allowed to examine the two men. Finally, as regards the impacts sustained by the vehicle and the number of occupants, Cantave stands by his version.

After being reported missing in Port-au-Prince on 15 July, Cantave and Ambroise were found alive the next day in the Petite Place Cazeau area (north of the city centre). They said they had been followed and then intercepted by two vehicles after leaving the radio station on the evening of 15 July. They said they were then taken to an unidentified place where their abductors interrogated and hit them. Cantave’s friends and colleagues have linked the threats received by the journalist to his investigations in Cité Soleil and La Saline, two Port-au-Prince shanty towns where drug dealers and armed gangs hold sway.

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