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U.N.: Government Has Arrested 50 People Since April

September 20, 1996

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Fifty people _ most of them opposition or former military figures _ have been arrested since April on subversion, conspiracy and illegal arms charges, a U.N. official said Friday.

Some politicians accuse President Rene Preval’s government of using the charges to suppress the opposition. But Preval claims ex-soldiers and supporters of the former military regime are plotting against his government.

``By and large, legal procedure has been complied with in the arrests,″ said Colin Granderson, head of the U.N. civilian mission in Haiti. He added, however, that no one has been brought to trial.

Under Haitian law, magistrates have three months after an arrest to investigate a case and decide whether to prosecute.

Nearly all those arrested were supporters of the 1991-94 military regime, which was succeeded by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom U.S. troops restored to power. The one exception is far-left militant Eddy Moise, who was arrested on murder, kidnapping and subversion charges in April.

Evens Francois, brother of 1991 coup co-leader Lt. Col. Joseph Michel Francois, was the first to be arrested and has been jailed five months. The last was Carmen Christophe, a former Port-au-Prince mayor, who was held for a week on conspiracy charges and released Tuesday.

Former dictator Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril, who appointed Christophe as mayor in 1988, has been in hiding since July, when a warrant for his arrest was issued.

U.S. troops disarmed and dismantled the 7,500-member Haitian army in September 1994 after three years of repressive military rule. Then-President Aristide dissolved the army in 1995; Preval took office in February.

Last month, police arrested 19 people, including 16 former soldiers, at the party headquarters of far-right politician Hubert Deronceray and accused them of plotting to attack the National Palace.

Deronceray went into hiding after police issued a warrant for his arrest on subversion charges.

Several former soldiers have threatened to commit terrorist acts if the government does not pay them almost two years’ back wages and release their colleagues from jail.

Two prominent members of Deronceray’s party were killed Aug. 20, provoking fears that Haiti was on the brink of civil war _ between friends and foes of the Preval administration.

The U.S. government last week dispatched 31 State Department agents to Port-au-Prince to overhaul Preval’s security, saying the move was a response to the general pattern of violence in Haiti.

The killings of several opposition politicians during Aristide’s term in office remain unsolved. About $3 million of $120 million in 1995-96 U.S. aid have been withheld until the government proves there was no official link to the assassinations.

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