Haiti Action Committee: Demand release of jailed democracy fighter Rene Civil!
September 8, 2006
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Rene Civil is seen in this photo leading a massive demonstration through Cite Soleil on July 15, 2006 where thousands demanded the return of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. photo: ©2006 Haiti Information Project

Haiti Action Committee: Demand release of jailed democracy fighter Rene Civil!

Urgent Action Alert from the Haiti Action Committee

Demand release of jailed democracy fighter Rene Civil!

Don't let them silence the voices of Haiti's poor majority!

Free Rene and all political prisoners!

1. The Illegal Political Arrest — Late in the night of August 25-26 Rene Civil, a leading grassroots activist with Haiti's Lavalas movement, was illegally arrested by Haitian police without a warrant. On August 28, Civil was interrogated by the new prosecutor of Port-au-Prince, Claudy Gassant, a well-known opponent of Lavalas, and thrown in the National Penitentiary. Brother Rene is now one of more than a thousand political prisoners reportedly languishing in Haiti's prisons.

As he left the court building, Rene Civil defiantly thrust his manacled hands in the air and said: "Liberty or death. I have been arrested unjustly, with false accusations, because I defend democracy and the return of President Aristide. This is a political arrest," according to a report on HaitiWebs. The same report quoted Lavalas sources as saying "the arrest is part of a plan to throw 200 Lavalas leaders into prison," and that certain state officials left over from the coup government were behind the plot.

2. The Fake Charges — Rene Civil faces three charges — all bogus. The first, "use of a stolen vehicle," involves a car Civil has owned for six years and had registered with the police. [While Civil was in exile, the police themselves seized the car and used it for two years. Civil had only recently reclaimed his car.] The second charge relates to two pistols in the possession of others in the car, not Mr. Civil. The third charge, "association with wrongdoers," is a vague conspiracy charge often used to keep democracy activists in prison — including Father Gerard Jean-Juste and former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune — without a shred of evidence that they committed any crime.

3. The Hounding of Rene Civil — After the February 29, 2004 kidnapping and coup d'etat that overthrew the democratically elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Rene Civil went into exile for two years in the Dominican Republic. On his return to Haiti on May 12, 2006 he was arrested at the border and jailed for two weeks — on an earlier set of trumped-up charges. Those charges were dropped on August 14. Now, barely two weeks later, he's arrested and jailed again!

4. "The Coup regime people are the ones responsible for my arrest" — Visited in prison by San Francisco writer Ben Terrall, Civil said his arrest is a provocation directed at the base of Lavalas. He said the people responsible for his arrest are the same people who were behind the 2004 coup, who hate President Aristide and any expression of popular democracy.

WHO IS RENE CIVIL? — Mr. Civil was a founding member and leader of Jeunesse Pouvoir Populaire or JPP (Youth/People's Power), a youth movement founded after the 1991-94 coup when President Aristide returned to Haiti. The JPP organized young people in the struggle for democracy, mainly in the poor neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince. The JPP provided financial support to encourage the youth to pursue their studies in school or learn a trade, and set up centers where young people could get a hot meal and political education.

Two days before his arrest, Rene Civil addressed the 3rd Solidarity Encounter with the Haitian People, at the Aristide Foundation in Port-au-Prince. He denounced the system "which causes economic, political, military and social war on the people of the world", and which is preventing poor nations like Haiti from exercising their independence. "The people of Haiti," he said, "who believe in freedom, who have tasted freedom, will never accept this criminal, slaving system."

Delegates to the Solidarity Encounter, including Rene Civil, participated in a chanting mass demonstration in front of the National Penitentiary on August 23 — demanding release of the political prisoners.

Your action now can make the difference. Write to Judge Durin Duret, the Investigating Magistrate (Juge d'Instruction). Letters can be sent directly to Judge Duret by regular mail. Or, you can send them to Rene Civil's lawyers by fax at 206-350-7986 (a U.S. number) or by email to avokahaiti@aol.com and his lawyers will see they are promptly delivered.

In your letter, very simply state (in any language) that this was an unjust political arrest of a pro-democracy activist, and demand the immediate release of political prisoner Rene Civil.

Address your letter to:

Maitre Durin Duret
Juge d'Instruction

Pres du Tribunal de premiere instance de Port-au-Prince
Ministere de la Justice

18, Avenue Charles Sumner
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

cc to Maitre Rene Magloire, Ministre de la Justice at the Ministere de la Justice, same address.

For more information: www.haitiaction.net 510-483-7481