Originally: Haitian rebel commander’s lawyers expect easy second murder trial after first ends in acquittal
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti–A week after a rebel commander was cleared of murder charges in what human rights groups called a sham trial, his lawyers predicted it would be even easier to win an acquittal in a second murder trial.
Attorney Stanley Gaston said Wednesday there was no evidence linking Louis-Jodel Chamblain to the 1994 killings of several supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the northern town of Gonaives. That trial is expected to start in October or November.
“It will be even easier. There is no evidence,” Gaston said.
Chamblain was acquitted last week of the murder of Antoine Izmery, an importer who bankrolled Aristide’s presidential bid in 1990, the year before he was ousted in a coup.
During the regime that followed the 1991 coup, Chamblain led the paramilitary Front for the Advancement and Progress of the Haitian People, a group blamed for killing some 3,000 people from 1991 to 1994, when U.S. troops restored Aristide to power.
Chamblain then fled to the Dominican Republic and in 1995 was convicted in absentia and given two life sentences for Izmery’s 1993 killing and the 1994 slayings in the Gonaives shantytown of Raboteau.
The former army sergeant returned from exile this year to join rebels in a three-week revolt that ended with Aristide’s ouster Feb. 29.
Chamblain now remains in jail awaiting trail for the 1994 killings. No prosecutor has been assigned yet for the upcoming trial, said Wyler Emmanuel, a Justice Ministry spokesman.
Human rights groups have criticized Haiti’s U.S.-backed interim government for appearing to form allegiances with rebels like Chamblain while arresting pro-Aristide officials and supporters.
Last week’s trial for Izmery’s murder lasted 14 hours, and only one out of eight witnesses for the prosecution showed, according to Viles Alizar of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights. The one prosecution witness said he knew nothing about the case.
Amnesty International condemned the trial as “shameful.”
The United States also expressed concern about the “haste” with which the case was brought and “procedural deficiencies.”
The Organization of American States said the trial had “serious deficiencies.”
Gaston dismissed the criticism Wednesday, insisting there were simply no witnesses who could implicate Chamblain. He said he expected Chamblain would be acquitted for the 1994 killings because he wasn’t in Gonaives at the time.
Prosecutors have said between eight and 15 people were killed in the Gonaives slayings.
Brian Concannon, a U.S. lawyer who participated in Chamblain’s prosecution in 1995, said there was evidence that members of Chamblain’s paramilitary group participated in the killings and that he had created the group to carry out such operations.
Haitian law allows people tried in absentia to have another trial if they return to the country.