Haitian priest Gerard Jean-Juste was released yesterday after serving seven weeks in prison. His case was eventually dismissed after an international outcry over his arrest. He joins us on the phone from Port-au-Prince. [includes rush transcript]
Bush arrived in Ottawa Tuesday in his first official presidential visit to Canada since taking office four years ago. Thousands of Canadians marched on the Parliament to protest the visit as President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin held a joint press conference. Bush spoke to reporters about the situation in Haiti.
- President Bush, speaking about Haiti at a press conference in Ottawa, November 30, 2004.
In news from Haiti, the Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste was released yesterday after serving seven weeks in prison. Father Jean-Jutse was arrested by masked Haitian police on October 13, while he was feeding the hungry children of his parish. Gérard Latortue, Haiti’s interim Prime Minister, claimed that there was a warrant, but no warrant was ever produced, nor was any evidence linking Fr. Jean-Juste to any crime.
The international outcry over Fr. Jean-Juste’s illegal detention forced Haiti”s interim government to bring him before a judge on November 12. The judge ordered that the case be dismissed and Fr. Jean-Juste be released. The interim government finally honored that order yesterday.
- Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, Roman Catholic priest in Haiti who was recently released from prison. He joins us on the line from Port-au-Prince.
AMY GOODMAN: Bush spoke to reporters about the situation in Haiti.
GEORGE W. BUSH: As we seek freedom America and Canada are working to further the spread of democracy in our own hemisphere. In Haiti a leader with United States, France, Chili, and other nations in helping to restore order. Canadian police are standing watch in Haiti at this hour and the Prime Minister just visited the country to further the cause of political reconciliation. I appreciate your briefing on your visit. Prime Minister Martin and I share a vision of a free and democratic western hemisphere in which every nation upholds human dignity.
AMY GOODMAN: President Bush speaking to reporters in Ottawa. In news from Haiti, Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste was released yesterday after serving seven weeks in prison. He was arrested by mass Haitian police October 13 while feeding hungry children in his parish. The Haitian interim prime minister backed by the United States claimed there was a warrant but no warrant was ever produced nor was any evidence linking Father Jean-Juste to crime. The international outcry over the illegal detention forced the interim government to bring him before a judge on November 12. The judge ordered the case be dismissed and Father Jean-Juste should be released, and the interim government honored the order yesterday. He joins us on the line from Port-au-Prince. Welcome to Democracy Now!
REV. GERARD JEAN-JUSTE: Thank you very much. And I’m grateful to all of you because there are so many friends and supporters of human rights. And I’m the first one to be released and I hope we keep the pressure on for others to get freedom.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe how you were arrested, what happened, and what were the reasons they gave for your arrest, Father Jean-Juste?
REV. GERARD JEAN-JUSTE: Ok. It was something between the church and the state, and as you know there is an agreement between the Church of Haiti and the Haitian government dating from 1860. And we are supposed to work together. But the normal procedure to follow is to talk to the bishop or priest and then the bishop has to go to court as a procedure. And about three months ago they observed that when they meet at court recommended to my bishop and the bishop called on me and I went to court and I had to testify. And at this time when I saw them I said the room I’m looking for, they said “What do you want?” They said they want to arrest me and get out. I said this is a free state you are not supposed to arrest me and they said get out and the commander ordered them to arrest me and they took me from one room to another room and handcuffed me but meanwhile while they are trying to handcuff me, some children were running down the stairs going to see what is happening and they had the heavy automatic rifle and the children, they make them lie down on the floor and the children started praying “our father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name…” and they said shut your mouth and the children stopped singing. And then they yelled again and made them be quiet and took me away in their car and took me where I was about a week. Then I moved to a third jail and then to a fourth jail. And then I met over 1,500 prisoners at one jail and half of them are political prisoners.
AMY GOODMAN: Father Jean-Juste, General Colin Powell, the Secretary of State is headed to Haiti now. President Bush praised Haiti in his joint news conference with the Canadian leader yesterday in Ottawa. Do you believe that the United States is behind the coup against Aristide that took place in Haiti on February 29?
REV. GERARD JEAN-JUSTE: Definitely. There were the three administrations involved in the administration of Wilfort Ferdinand, the administration of the Prime Minister Canada, Paul Martin, and the administration of Jacques Chirac of France. They were all behind the coup but mostly French and the U.S., the Bush administration. They kidnapped an elected president and it was something very bad, who asked the Haitian people and still calling for a return to order. To have peace in Haiti now and have an elected government and support the small group to go after the government and bring the government down so they are members of the United Nations, they are conventional people posed to respect and for government in our world to act like cowboys going after elected officials. It is wrong.