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Haitian ex-paramilitary leader to stand trial
May 22, 2007 / 11:22 PM / 10 years ago

Haitian ex-paramilitary leader to stand trial

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Haitian former paramilitary leader accused of rape and murder in Haiti will stand trial in New York for mortgage fraud, a state judge ruled on Tuesday after a human rights group argued he could escape justice if he were to return to Haiti.

Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, 50, was to have served a reduced prison term in return for pleading guilty in February to fraud and grand larceny.

But State Supreme Court Judge Abraham Gerges rejected that plea agreement based on detailed information he recently received regarding Constant’s leadership role in the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, known as FRAPH.

“These allegations, if true, are heinous, and the court cannot in good conscience consent to the previously negotiated sentence,” the judge said in a written ruling. “The court also cannot consent to time served, as that would be a travesty.”

The judge set a trial date of September 24. If convicted, Constant faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.

The Center for Constitutional Rights told the judge by letter that Constant should not be deported but instead serve a full sentence for economic crimes in New York because it was likely Constant “could evade justice in his home country” for human rights violations.

The legal rights group said the ex-death squad leader of FRAPH, which formed to undermine former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, fled to New York in 1994 soon after Aristide returned to power and issued his arrest warrant.

The group said Constant was a former paid CIA informant and had directly conspired in the assassination of Aristide’s Minister of Justice, Guy Malary, but had been allowed to stay in the United States.

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