By Joe Colas
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- A key suspect in the murder of famous Haitian journalist Jean Dominique has been extradited to Haiti from Argentina where he had been arrested and detained in a criminal investigation that has been ongoing for more than 14 years.
Philippe Markington – believed by the investigative judge to be one of the perpetrators of the assassination on April 3, 2000, of the director of Radio Haiti Inter and his security guard Jean-Claude Louissant -- returned to Haiti on Saturday, escorted by Haitian police who had been sent to Argentina to collect him.
"We welcome a very significant step in efforts to punish the material and intellectual authors of the murder of Jean Dominique," said Guyler C. Delva, head of the organization SOS Journalistes and chairman of the Independent Support Commission for Inquiries into Killing of Journalists (known as CIAPEAJ), a committee that oversees cases of murdered journalists in Haiti.
"Philippe Markington is now available to the Haitian justice to be interrogated on the Dominique's case which now takes an irreversible pace," said Delva.
Markington, a close ally of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, appeared on Monday in the Court of Appeal in Port-au-Prince as part of the investigation.
Delva said that his committee worked closely with the minister of justice Jean Renel Sanon, the minister of foreign affairs Duly Brutus, and the central director of the Judicial Police, Inspector General Rameau Normil, to facilitate Markington’s extradition.
"At the CIAPEAJ and SOS Journalistes, we had always been in contact with Minister Sanon and Minister Brutus, and the Inspector General Rameau Normil who all did a great job in coordinating efforts with Argentine authorities," Delva reported.
The advocate of freedom of the press called on the authorities to do everything in their power to ensure the protection of the suspect, who is a key part of the investigation.
Other individuals -- including former senator Mirlande Libérus presented as the intellectual author of the crime -- are subject to an international arrest warrant issued by investigating judge Yvickel Dabrézil. Libérus currently lives in the United States.
Important witnesses, who testified under oath before the judge, said that Libérus, then very close to Aristide, was instructed by him to plan the murder of Dominique, who was very critical of the former leader and his political party Fanmi Lavalas.
According to some accounts, Aristide, who remained very powerful in Haiti even in the aftermath of his first presidential term, and his strongest supporters feared that the adverse positions taken by the popular journalist and editor Dominique could have been an obstacle to his return to power, on the eve of crucial parliamentary and presidential elections.
Dominique was also a target for other forces and sectors of the economic and political establishment associated with the former despotic Duvalier regime. However, all the judges that have so far worked on the case presented clues indicating that Dominique’s murder could have been planned within the Lavalas political party led and dominated by Aristide.
In particular, the nine suspects blamed in the most recent report issued by Judge Dabrézil, as intellectual and material authors of the double murder of Dominique and Jean-Claude Louissaint, are all close allies of Aristide.