Popular Haitian-American folk singer and political activist Annette Auguste, has been released after spending over two years in a Haitian jail. Auguste, commonly known as So Anne, was jailed shortly after the 2004 coup that ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. So Anne joins us on the line from Haiti. [includes rush transcript]
Popular Haitian-American folk singer and political activist Annette Auguste, has been released after spending over two years in a Haitian jail. Auguste, commonly known as So Anne, was jailed shortly after the 2004 coup that ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. So Anne was one of the most prominent Aristide supporters to be jailed under the U.S.-backed Haitian government. She lived in Brooklyn, New York for 20 years before returning in 1994 when Aristide returned to power after the first coup against him.
In May 2004, US Marines raided her home in the middle of the night, used explosives to break down her front door, killed her two pet dogs, handcuffed her 5-year-old grandson and arrested her. She has been in prison ever since. According to the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, the Haitian judge in charge of her case ruled this week that there was no evidence to hold her in prison. She was released last night.
So Anne joins us on the line from Haiti. We also speak with independent journalist Kim Ives, the former editor of the Haitian newspaper, Haiti Progres.
- So Anne, Haitian folk singer. She speaks to us from Haiti.
- Kim Ives, independent journalist and former editor of the Haitian newspaper, Haiti Progres.
AMY GOODMAN: So Anne joins us now on the line from Haiti. We welcome you to Democracy Now!, So Anne Auguste.
SO ANNE: Hello. I say good morning to everyone.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. How are you feeling?
SO ANNE: I feel good. I feel good, because, you know, since two years I was [inaudible] in jail, but now I’m released, and I feel well.
AMY GOODMAN: You were arrested by U.S. Marines?
SO ANNE: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: On what grounds?
SO ANNE: The Marines came into my house with grenades, [inaudible] my house, you know? Even my dogs were killed. [inaudible] Suddenly, [inaudible] that means 15 people was arrested in my house that day. They broke everything. They threw grenades in my house, you know? That means — hello?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, we can hear you. Can you talk about —
SO ANNE: Can you hear me?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes. So they arrested you —
SO ANNE: The Marines arrested me that day. Until now, I have been released yesterday, only yesterday, since two years and three months in jail. But, you know, there’s no tie, no evidence to condemn me. That’s why yesterday I’m released, I’m free.
AMY GOODMAN: And your time in prison, the two years, what were the prison conditions like, So Anne?
SO ANNE: The condition in prison [inaudible] were very bad for everyone, for everybody. Even, you know, the mouse comes in your room. [inaudible] That’s very bad. No [inaudible] food. Nothing is good in the prison. That means everybody’s suffering. Everyone is suffering in the prison. I mean, it was not only me, okay? There are so many people they arrested, you know, for reaction [inaudible] they call these people rats. So many people [inaudible] Aristide, yes? No. [inaudible] all these people, who don’t have no names, who don’t have nobody, no relatives, you know, to [inaudible] for them, but, you know, you knew of them because. [inaudible], because I got a name. They know me. You have no choice if they didn’t know.
AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think they wanted you to remain in prison?
SO ANNE: Because of Aristide. Because I was friend of Aristide. You know, they think that — that [inaudible] to help, you know, you knew somebody that considers him [inaudible] somebody, they don’t want you, you know, to have [inaudible] honor or freedom. That’s why I became in jail, because of Aristide, because I didn’t do nothing bad, you know? I didn’t do nothing bad. I was helping people. They arrest me. For what? For Aristide. They overthrew Aristide. They sent Aristide to South Africa. And I was in jail. That’s it.
AMY GOODMAN: What will you do now?
SO ANNE: From now, only I don’t know what I’m going to do, because I am in this country. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know [inaudible], Preval is in power now. We are waiting [inaudible] for Haiti, because, you know, we struggled and we reached [inaudible] then, for all those people who don’t have no food to eat and that [inaudible] water, don’t have water. There are so many people in the village who [inaudible] change, because, you know, the people, they’re very, very, very, very bad. [inaudible] I know a lot of them, [inaudible] lack food, they don’t have no school. [inaudible]
AMY GOODMAN: Well, So Anne, I want to thank you very much for joining us. So Anne Auguste has been freed after more than two years in prison. She was arrested by U.S. Marines, taken from her home. No charges were brought against her. Finally, we’re also joined by Kim Ives, independent journalist, former editor of the Haitian newspaper, Haiti Progres. The significance of So Anne’s release, Kim Ives, coming on the heels of the release of the former prime minister of Haiti, Yvon Neptune?
KIM IVES: Yes, Amy, I think it’s showing the importance of the popular pressure, which has mobilized now to primarily get the political prisoners out. It must be said that a number of other political prisoners were also released yesterday. There was Zap Zap, who’s Yvon Antoine, a musician who was also in jail; Paul Raymond, an activist who also had been in jail for over a year; as well as Georges Honore, another activist from Bel Air. So this is showing the power of the movement, despite the foot dragging of the Preval administration. There has been just an upsurge, an uprising of people in the streets every day, demanding for the prisoners to be released, and there still are hundreds still in jail.
AMY GOODMAN: Kim Ives, thanks for joining us, speaking to us from here in New York. So Anne speaking to us from Haiti. Finally, Kim Ives, how unusual was it that So Anne was arrested by U.S. Marines in Haiti?
KIM IVES: It was extremely unusual. They did this in complete violation of the Constitution, which doesn’t allow people to be arrested between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., and the fact that they did the arresting and it wasn’t the police. They thought she was involved with Muslims at a local mosque and that she was going to launch some kind of attack against them, which is so preposterous. She had just come out of the hospital. She had just finished a record. She was 60 years old at that time. It was just absurd, and it was extremely irregular for them to go and arrest her and kill her dogs and attack her house military-style.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that the former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, will be returning to Haiti any time soon from South Africa, where he is in exile with his family? Kim Ives? Kim, do you think that Aristide would be released?
KIM IVES: Oh, I think I hear So Anne maybe saying a word about that, but I think he —
AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead, Kim.
KIM IVES: Okay, I do believe —
AMY GOODMAN: So Anne? So Anne, did you hear my question? Will President Aristide return to Haiti?
SO ANNE: We want them to return, because the Constitution said that. We do not exile people. It’s not just Aristide. All the people in exile, you know, to have become back [inaudible], because we don’t want that. The Constitution said that. No exiled people. That’s why we want Aristide to come back in the country. [inaudible] organization.
AMY GOODMAN: And Kim Ives?
KIM IVES: Yes, I think I don’t expect him back in the short term, but I do think that this mobilization has such momentum and such determination that I think it’s inevitable he must come back in the next few months. He is the symbol that the people still hold of their struggle, of their demands, and I think there’s no way, despite the U.S. government’s hostility to that project, that he cannot come back in the next few months.
AMY GOODMAN: Kim Ives, I want to thank you for being with us. And, So Anne, thank you for being with us on this first day of your freedom in Haiti.