Port-au-Prince, Haiti: The United Nations Special Envoy, Juan Gabriel Valdes, critical of the manner in which Haiti’s judicial system has handled the case of former prime minister Yvone Neptune, has called for his release from prison.

Neptune, who was charged in May, has been in prison on accusations he masterminded a massacre of government opponents in February 2004, a charge he has denied.

Neptune served as prime minister under former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was controversially removed from office in February 2004 and now resides in exile in South Africa.

Aristide has accused the United States and France of engineering his removal, a claim that has been denied by Washington.

Neptune has been on a hunger strike since mid-April and Caribbean governments have also called for his release.

Valdes told reporters that the judicial system had handled Neptune’s case badly and even suggested that Neptune be released while the case was being prosecuted. His arrest has led critics of the U.S.-backed interim administration to focus on the manner in which it is dealing with political and criminal violence in the former French colony.

“Our appreciation of the legal system and the procedures followed indicate to us that it would be perfectly possible to release Mr. Neptune from prison even if his case continued to be processed,” Valdes told reporters.

“We believe that serious attention should be given to Neptune’s release,” he said.

The interim government which has denied any political victimization, this week appointed a new justice minister to replace Bernard Gousse, who had been criticised for the failure to bring to trial many persons including Neptune over the past months.