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Haiti Supreme Court Judge Linked to Coup Plot Released from Detention

By Sandra Lemaire, Renan Toussaint February 11, 2021

Supreme Court Justice Yvickel Dabresil was released from detention Thursday, a day after a civilian court in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Croix des Bouquets ordered his release.

Lawyer Wilner Morin, president of the National Association of Haitian Judges (ANAMAH), told VOA that there were no conditions imposed on the justice's release, and that Dabresil was back home with his family.

Dabresil was arrested early Sunday during a sting operation regarding an alleged coup attempt that was launched by the national police in conjunction with the National Intelligence Agency.

VOA Creole reporter Renan Toussaint said 20 others who were arrested with the judge are still in police custody.

A lawyer for those being detained told VOA he is working to get them released as well.

The alleged coup plot is laid out in a video produced by the Haitian National Intelligence Service and distributed to the press. It begins with mobile phone footage of Dabresil shortly after his arrest. The images led some lawyers who know the judge and examined the video to question the legality of the operation.

On Tuesday, Dabresil was transferred out of the National Police Force Investigations Unit facility (DCPJ — Direction Centrale Police Judiciare — the Haitian equivalent of the FBI) to a facility in Croix-des-Bouquets, located 13 kilometers northeast of Port-au-Prince. A VOA Creole reporter said the judge was transferred without being arraigned.

According to a human rights activist who visited Dabresil in detention, the justice refused to respond to DCPJ questions. Because Dabresil is an officer of the highest court of law in the nation, his legal authority supersedes that of the lower court judges, according to Haiti's constitution.

Lawyer Samuel Madistin questioned the legality of Dabresil's arrest.

"I think the arrest was completely illegal," Madistin said in an interview with a Haitian radio station, saying that legal procedures were not followed. According to Madistin, the justice of the peace — who is required to be on the premises before an arrest warrant is served — was absent.

But in an exclusive interview with VOA Creole on Tuesday, President Jovenel Moise defended the operation that led to the arrests.

"The chief of the tribunal of Port-au-Prince was asked by a journalist who has jurisdiction over crimes against the state. He responded if you pull off a coup d'etat, you are a hero. If you don't, we will judge you as a criminal in a court of law with a jury," Moise said.

The U.S. State Department and United Nations have expressed concern about the recent developments in Haiti.

"We understand the Haitian National Police is investigating 23 individuals who were arrested over the weekend. The situation remains murky, and we await the results of the police investigation," a State Department spokesperson told VOA.



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