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Haitian lawmaker frees criminal suspects by force
Published on March 29, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- Prosecutors in Haiti's capital on Thursday observed the last day of a 48-hour strike to denounce and protest the storming of their office by a lawmaker who freed by force a group of suspects who were about to be heard on illegal confinement and destruction of public property charges.

Arnel Belizaire
A Haitian lawmaker, Arnel Belizaire, accompanied by a group of heavily armed individuals, on Tuesday stormed the building of the Port-au-Prince prosecutor's office and left with 11 suspects who were involved in a violent incident at the government-run retirement insurance agency, according to prosecutors.

"Mr Belizaire and those who accompanied him had long weapons and were very aggressive and with the threat of their weapons they succeeded in leaving with the 11 suspects," Prosecutor Gerald Norgaisse told HCNN on Thursday.

"In the face of the aggressiveness performed by Deputy Belizaire, and his armed commando, the security guards, who could intervene, refrained from engaging in a fight with them to avoid a worse situation," said Norgaisse.

The 11 suspects, who were working as security agents at the national retirement insurance agency, were escorted to the prosecutor's office for questioning after they were accused of illegally confining several functionaries and destroying property of the state insurance agency, during a protest by a group of employees against the staff management of the institution.

Taking advantage of his immunity, Belizaire has, on several occasions, used violence to try to achieve his goals, but the lawmaker, a former member of the military, said he left with the suspects because no prosecutor was available to hear them, which prosecutor Norgaisse rejected.

"There was no one to hear them, so I told them they could come with me and they could come back another time," Belizaire told reporters on Thursday.

The justice minister, Jean Renel Sanon, called Belizaire's action an inacceptable interference with the prerogatives of the judicial branch and confirmed that he has transmitted a request submitted by the prosecutor's office for the lifting of the immunity of the legislator.

Several lawmakers said they were outraged by the attitude of their colleague and expressed their will to vote for the lifting of his immunity to allow relevant authorities to initiate judicial proceedings against Belizaire.

"A lawmaker does not have a right to go with six or seven armed men to extract suspects from judicial authorities," Deputy Jean-René Lochard told HCNN.

"Such behaviour dishonours the entire Parliament and I will vote to lift his immunity when we have a session on the matter," Lochard announced.

However, the lifting of Belizaire's immunity won't be automatic because the assembly, which is essentially a political gathering, can decide either way. A date for such a session has not yet been determined, but lawmakers said they could address the issue soon.
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