Originally: Prosecutor flees Haiti, saying he feared for life
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A prosecutor has fled Haiti with his family, saying Tuesday that he feared for his life after refusing to drop charges against a street activist allied with the government.
Deputy prosecutor Henock Genelus, who worked in the west-coast town of Gonaives, spoke to a Haitian radio station by phone from the neighboring Dominican Republic, where he fled with his wife and five children Friday.
“I left to escape being killed,” he told independent Radio Signal FM.
He said his concern stemmed from the case of escaped inmate and pro-government activist Amiot Metayer, who broke out of prison last year.
Metayer, who leads a group known as the Cannibal Army, was charged with arson for allegedly burning the houses of rivals last year. He also has been accused of other political attacks, though he has not been charged.
Metayer broke out of the Gonaives prison with more than 150 inmates on Aug. 2 when his supporters bulldozed a hole in the wall. He remains free.
The government says police haven’t arrested him to avoid bloodshed in the shantytown where he lives with other armed men.
The United States and the Organization of American States, however, have urged Metayer’s arrest.
Genelus said a representative of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide ordered him earlier this month to drop arson charges before the arrival of an OAS mission on Wednesday.
Genelus said the representative, Kettelin Thelemaque, told him Aristide “had personally sent him” to order Metayer be cleared “on the grounds his arrest was illegal and detention arbitrary.”
Genelus said he refused. In an interview with independent Radio Metropole, Thelemaque denied the accusation, saying the judicial system is independent.
Genelus was the second judicial official to flee the country in a month.
Investigating judge Marcel Jean fled to the United States last month, saying he had been threatened by “people from the National Palace” who wanted him to clear Metayer.
Reports of attacks and intimidation by Metayer’s Cannibal Army group have continued.
In November, seven journalists went into hiding after members of the group allegedly attacked a radio station. Six of the journalists left last month for the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.
In December, members of the Cannibal Army were accused by witnesses of killing at least one person as they disrupted anti-government demonstrations and set fire to more than 20 houses.
The OAS also has cited witnesses who accuse Metayer of killing an opposition supporter on Dec. 17, 2001, when Aristide partisans went on a rampage following an armed attack on the National Palace. Metayer has denied it.