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Police Chief Denies He Is Plotting to Kill Senators

January 25, 1996

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Haiti’s police chief Thursday brushed aside charges he plotted to assassinate lawmakers fighting his appointment _ the latest accusation to hit a police force as inexperienced as its leader.

Jean-Marie Fourel Celestin called the charges ``a political game.″

But he refused to respond directly to the charges that Sen. Jean-Robert Sabalat made Wednesday in the Senate, saying, ``I don’t want to descend to his level.

Sabalat told fellow senators he had received a letter from a Cabinet minister accusing Celestin of plotting to kill several legislators. He refused to identify the Cabinet minister.

``Today I learned that Mr. Fourel Celestin is threatening to kill me and other senators because he isn’t happy that we didn’t accept his nomination,″ Sabalat said.

Celestin responded Thursday: ``When I heard the news, all I did was give the national police orders to assure his security.″

Sen. Samuel Madistin told The Associated Press he was among targeted legislators, along with Rep. Alix Fils-Aime and Sen. Robert Denis.

Senators immediately set up a commission to investigate the charge and to meet with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Premier Claudette Werleigh.

A former colonel and army medical doctor, Celestin was appointed by Aristide to lead the fledgling 5,500-member police force on Nov. 30. The move met with immediate opposition from Haitians, and from U.S. and European diplomats.

Of the police, 550 are former soldiers. That, combined with Celestin’s appointment, prompted charges that Aristide was militarizing a force that was set up to replace a murderous military machinery. American, Canadian and French officers are training the new police.

Human rights groups have accused the police of being trigger-happy and showing little respect for human rights.

European diplomats allege Celestin took an $80,000 bribe to free drug dealers from prison in November. Domestic critics have accused him of being incompetent, corrupt and lacking vision.

An outspoken independent, Sabalat was one of 14 senators who blocked Celestin’s appointment on Jan. 16. Three senators voted for the appointment, and the remaining 10 were absent.

Some believe Aristide is trying to ensure his control before he steps down on Feb. 7, when President-elect Rene Preval takes over.

Last Friday, Aristide reiterated his confidence in Celestin, who went into exile with him after the bloody September 1991 army ouster of his democratically elected government.

After a U.S.-led military intervention paved the way for his return in October 1994, Aristide appointed Celestin head of his palace security guard.

Celestin will lead the police force until Aristide or Preval appoints a new chief and the choice is ratified by the Senate.

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