January 18, 2014 / 5:56 AM / 6 years ago

Nine charged in 2000 murder of Haitian journalist Jean Dominique

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - A judge concluded the investigation into one of Haiti’s most notorious political assassinations on Friday, accusing nine people of having a hand in the killing of radio journalist Jean Dominique, including several close associates of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Michele Montas, a former spokeswoman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is seen in front of a picture of her late husband Jean Dominique at her house in Port-au-Prince January 19, 2011. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

A former senator, Mirlande Libérus from Aristide’s political party, was indicted as the organizer of the double murder in April 2000 of Dominique, owner of Radio Haiti Inter, and a security guard, according to a summary of the judge’s report made public by an Appeals Court panel on Friday.

The two victims were shot by unidentified gunmen as Dominique drove into the radio station’s offices in Port-au-Prince, according to the judges.

Libérus was given the mission by Aristide to silence the popular journalist, the report said, citing witnesses who testified before Judge Yvikel Dabrésil.

The judge did not indict Aristide as part of the conspiracy.

Aristide did not issue a statement after the judge’s report was made public. His lawyers did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Dominique’s widow, Michele Montas, welcomed news of the report, saying it was a “positive step” after many years of seeking justice.

“It’s been 10 years since I gave my testimony in the case,” Montas told Reuters.

Montas moved to New York after the killing and is a former spokeswoman for the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. She declined further comment saying she has not seen a copy of the judge’s report.

The judge’s full report is due to be published in the coming weeks, after it has been formally accepted by the Appeals Court, according to Guyler Delva, who heads a local committee of investigating the cases of murdered journalists.

“It’s very encouraging,” said Delva, a former correspondent for Reuters who now runs a government-funded news website, Haiti News Network. He said it was unclear why Aristide had not been indicted. “How could you indict Libérus for receiving the order to get rid of Dominique, and not the person who gave the order,” he said.

The nine accused include Senator Libérus and Harold Severe, the former deputy mayor of Port-au-Prince. The others are Annette Auguste, Franco Camille, Merité Milien, Dimsley Milien, Toussaint Mercidieu, Jeudi Jean Daniel and Markington Michel.

None of the accused has so far been arrested and some are believed to be living abroad, including Libérus, who local media reports say resides in the United States.

Due to its political sensitivity the case has taken years to prosecute and slipped through the hands of numerous judges, one who fled the country in fear.

In all seven judges worked on the case over the span of almost 14 years. If and when a trial will be held remains unclear as the case could still be appealed to the Supreme Court.

An agronomist by training, Dominique was born into Haiti’s light-skinned mulatto elite, but broke ranks to become a champion of the country’s poor peasants.

The story of his life - and death - was made into an award-winning documentary, “The Agronomist,” by filmmaker Jonathan Demme, director of “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Wearing a trademark black leather cap, Dominique revolutionized Haitian broadcasting by addressing his audience in native Creole, rather than French, and denouncing abuses by those in power.

His scathing on-air editorials made him an enemy of Haiti’s dictators, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc.”

Dominique later turned his tongue against Aristide’s political party, Lavalas, accusing it of corruption and abuse of power, and was widely considered as a rival to Aristide’s bid to return to power in 2001.

Writing and additional reporting by David Adams; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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