Congresswoman Maxine Waters travels to Haiti; visits former Prime Minister Neptune in prison; and demands that the interim government release him and all political prisoners.
March 07, 2005
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Congresswoman Maxine Waters travels to Haiti; visits former Prime Minister Neptune in prison; and demands that the interim government release him and all political prisoners.

Washington, D.C. -- Today, Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-35) traveled to Haiti to visit Haiti's former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, who is being detained illegally in prison. She was met at the airport in Port-au-Prince by U.S. Embassy officials early this morning and immediately traveled to the National Penitentiary, where she met with Prime Minister Neptune, as well as former Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert and former delegate Jacques Mathelier. The Congresswoman spent an hour with Prime Minister Neptune, discussing his health and the treatment he has received in prison, after which she returned to the airport and held a press conference.

"I urge the interim government of Haiti to set Prime Minister Neptune free and release all political prisoners in Haitian prisons," said the Congresswoman. "The interim government's repression of dissenters like Prime Minister Neptune must end immediately. The whole world is watching."

Prime Minister Neptune has languished in prison in Haiti since June 27, 2004. His life has been endangered throughout his confinement. There were reports of a plot to assassinate him last November, a massacre in the National Penitentiary on December 1, and a revolt in the National Penitentiary on February 19. Prime Minister Neptune recently began a hunger strike and has vowed not to eat until the unjust, unsafe circumstances of his confinement are addressed.

"The conditions that I observed in the prison where Prime Minister Neptune is being held were deplorable," reported the Congresswoman. "Prime Minister Neptune was weak and could only speak in a whispering voice. He insisted that he had been jailed without justification and that he had committed no crime. He has not been allowed to go before a judge to challenge his confinement as required under the constitution of Haiti, and he believes he has been targeted to be killed."

"I tried to convince Prime Minister Neptune to give up his hunger strike or at least accept temporary asylum from the United States, so that he could be examined by an American physician tasked with ensuring that his hunger strike has not caused him bodily harm," explained the Congresswoman. "However, Prime Minister Neptune refused to end his hunger strike, which protests his unjust imprisonment by the interim government of Haiti. He said he will not leave Haiti, and he will not accept political asylum in another country. The only condition under which he would be willing to end his hunger strike is if the interim government of Haiti releases him and allows him to live as a free man in Haiti."

Congresswoman Waters was accompanied to the prison by a delegation of Americans who are concerned about human rights in Haiti. The delegation included Marguerite Laurent, the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network; Mario Joseph, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti; Margaret Prescod, Global Women Strike; Lucie Tondreau, Veye Yo and the Haiti Action Committee; Dr. Serge Louis, Fanmi Lavalas; and Dr. Jean-Paul Bennet, a physician;

Congresswoman Waters was joined on her flight to Port-au-Prince by Ira Kurzban, a prominent Florida attorney who served as the attorney for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the democratically-elected President of Haiti who was forced to leave Haiti in a coup d'etat on February 29, 2004. Upon arrival, Mr. Kurzban was told that the interim government of Haiti would not allow him to enter the country. Employees of American Airlines informed Mr. Kurzban that should he deplane, he would be immediately arrested. Nevertheless, Mr. Kurzban left the plane and demanded to know why he was not being allowed to enter Haiti, but was stopped by officials of the interim government, who forced him to get back on a plane and return to the United States.

"The interim government's refusal to allow Ira Kurzban to join me in visiting Prime Minister Neptune is just another example of its systematic repression of everyone who is associated with President Aristide or his political party," said Congresswoman Waters. "This repression has got to stop."

"I traveled to Haiti to determine the conditions of Prime Minister Neptune's imprisonment, assess his well-being, and work with the U.S. Embassy to obtain his immediate release from prison. I believe that our efforts will help to save Prime Minister Neptune's life, and I hope that they will lead to his immediate release from prison."


see also

Member of US Congress part of high-level delegation to visit Haiti On the heels of the one year anniversary since the removal of elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide as well as to mark March 8 International Women's Day, on Monday, March 7, 2005, a high level delegation, including US Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a medical team, a representative of the Global Women's Strike, and Haitian-American activists will travel to Haiti.

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