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Catholic Bishops Criticize Military Government

August 12, 1988

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Roman Catholic bishops on Thursday strongly protested the expulsion of a Canadian priest and accused the military government of random killings, saying ″human life has no value″ here.

The statement, broadcast on Catholic Radio-Soleil, was the first general comment on conditions in Haiti by the largely conservative church leadership since Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy seized power on June 19.

In a declaration signed by the two archbishops and the eight bishops of Haiti, the Catholic Episcopal Conference specifically protested the government’s Aug. 5 ouster of Rev. Rene Poirier, a parish priest.

The declaration came one day after soldiers broke up a prayer vigil for Poirier by about 500 Catholics and arrested five people standing guard outside a church where the vigil took place.

Poirier, who belonged to an activist wing of the church that openly opposes the military government, was arrested and expelled after he refused to give police the names of parishioners. The government accused Poirier of disturbing ″social and political order.″

″In the name of the right and dignity of all human beings, in the name of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we vigorously protest against the way Father Poirier was expelled,″ the bishops said.

The declaration denounced the Namphy government for the coup that ended four months of government by civilian President Leslie Manigat, and for suspending Haiti’s constitution on July 8.

″On June 19, the Haitian army seized power,″ the statement said. ″It crushed the constitution, although it had pledged to respect that constitution.″

The bishops also accused the military of widespread human rights violations before and after the coup, saying that ″human life has no value in the country. People are killed here and there.″

They cited the death of human rights leader Lafontant Joseph, who was found slain July 11; the pillaging of the remote northern village of Danti in May; and the attack on a Catholic presbytery at Fonds Varette last month.

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