Haitian Bishops Ask End To Repression
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Haiti’s Roman Catholic bishops Saturday urged the military government to stop its crackdown on the opposition and restore individual liberties suspended after a state of siege was declared last week.
″It is time for us to stop tearing each other apart,″ said a statement read by the church’s Radio Soleil and signed by Haiti’s 10 bishops.
On Saturday, two journalists and five other people were reported arrested in the northern port city of Cap-Haitien. Several homes and businesses were searched for weapons in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien, witnesses said.
Six of the seven were released after being held briefly. The one still detained was not a journalist.
The bishops asked the government to allow the return of seven political, civic and business leaders who were forced into exile after government leader Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril declared the 30-day state of siege on Jan. 20.
They also urged the government to ″abolish torture in all its forms.″
Since Jan. 20, police have arrested more than 50 political activists. Most were reportedly released but complained they were beaten while in custody.
In Cap-Haitien, police arrested Hugues Florvil and Bell Angelo, both journalists of privately owned Radio Cap-Haitien, said a Cap-Haitien source who insisted on anonymity.
The two were later released.
The government imposed censorship on radio stations Tuesday, barring them from broadcasting news not approved by authorities. Since then no radio stations, the main source of news in Haiti, have broadcast local news.
Cap-Haitien police also arrested and released activist and shopkeeper Edouard Laroche and Max Vieux, the 85-year-old father-in-law of conservative opposition leader Gerard Philippe-Auguste, who has been in hiding since last week, the source said.
The bishops urged the government to ″take concrete steps to establish a favorable climate for free and honest elections.″
The crackdown came a day after mystery gunmen killed army Col. Andre Neptune. Critics accused Avril of using the killing as a pretext to repress the opposition and renege on his promise of free elections in October.
Avril said on state television Friday night he will lift the state of siege Tuesday and reaffirmed his commitment to elections, but ″in a more serene climate.″ He did not say if exiled leaders could return.
France, the United States, Canada and the European Community have condemned the repression and banishments.
France, Haiti’s largest donor and former colonial ruler, suspended economic aid and talks on a $500 million development package.