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Haiti26 December 2002

Radio station chief survives apparent murder attempt

Reporters Without Borders said today it was outraged at an apparent attempt on Christmas Day to kill the head of Radio Haiti Inter, Michèle Montas (photo), in which one of her bodyguards was shot dead.(JPEG)

"The attackers wanted to eliminate the person who is fighting for the arrest and punishment of the killers in 2000 of her husband Jean Dominique, Haiti’s best-known journalist," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard.

Ménard expressed his "great admiration" for the "courage and determination" of Montas in her nearly three-year battle and assured her of his "total support" in the wake of what he called a "despicable and cowardly action." He also expressed his condolences to the family of her bodyguard, Maxime Séide, who was shot and killed in the attack.

Montas was one of five journalists from around the world shortlisted for this year’s Reporters Without Borders / Fondation de France Prize in recognition of her fight against impunity in the murder of her husband, the head of Radio Haiti Inter, who was shot dead in the station’s courtyard on 3 April 2000.

Reporters Without Borders called on the authorities to thoroughly investigate the latest attack and asked that key people in the enquiry into the Dominique murder be given special protection, especially Bernard Saint-Vil, the investigating judge, and the state prosecutor, Josué Pierre-Louis.

Two armed men appeared at the gates of Montas’ house in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, in the late afternoon of 25 December a few minutes after she had arrived home after a Christmas lunch with family members. They threatened her security guards who immediately shut the gates. One of the guards ran to the house to get a gun. The attackers then fired at the second guard, Séide, fatally wounding him before fleeing.

Montas said the attackers had intended to kill her. The two men were on foot, she said, and had probably waited near her house for her to arrive. She said she had, unusually, asked her driver to take a different route back to the house that day.

The attack came a few days before Judge Saint-Vil is expected to announce completion of his enquiry into Dominique’s murder, which has been hampered by many obstacles.

The outspoken Dominique, Haiti’s best-known journalist and political commentator, criticised all sides, whether supporters of the former Duvalier family dictatorship, ex-military figures, member of the country’s wealthy families or, not long before his death, those he suspected in the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of having turned the party away from its original principles.

The murder investigation was assigned in September 2000 to Judge Claudy Gassant after his predecessor, Judge Jean-Sénat Fleury, had resigned after receiving threats. Gassant fled to the United States after his mandate expired on 3 January 2002 and was not immediately renewed by Aristide. He had been repeatedly harassed after naming an Aristide supporter and former army major, Sen. Dany Toussaint, as the man responsible for Dominique’s death.

Since July, the investigation has been in the hands of Judge Saint-Vil, who has resumed questioning people and said his enquiry may be formally completed by the end of the year. The case file will then go to prosecutor Pierre-Louis, who will have five days to ask for any further information from the judge. After that, the completion announcement, with names of people to be arrested or charged, will be made public.

Read more about Michèle Montas

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