Two convicted in Haitian journalist’s murder

New York, December 14, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes Wednesday’s conviction of two men for the December 2001 murder of Haitian journalist Brignol Lindor.

The court in the western city of Petit-Goâve sentenced to life in prison Jean Rémy Démosthène and Joubert Saint Juste, members of the local political organization “Domi Nan Bwa,” which had ties to former president Jean Bertrand Aristide’s Famni Lavalas party, according to reports in the Haitian press.

“We applaud the efforts of Haitian authorities to seek justice in the murder of our colleague Brignol Lindor,” said CPJ Executive Director, Joel Simon. “This is an excellent step forward for Haiti’s freedom of the press, and we encourage the prosecution to continue its work in order to ensure that all those responsible for Lindor’s death are brought to justice.”

A third defendant, Simon Cétouté, was acquitted because of mistaken identity, while a new investigation was opened for the fourth defendant, Fritzner Doudoute, because of a technicality, said Guyler Delva, president of the local press freedom group S.O.S. Journalistes and head of an independent committee of Haitian journalists that reviews the progress of official investigations into the unsolved murders of journalists in Haiti.

Five other “Domi Nan Bwa” members have been accused of involvement in Lindor’s murder but are currently at large, said Delva. On Wednesday, the court issued arrest warrants for them, and gave them 10 days to turn themselves in or be tried in absentia, Delva told CPJ. The court also instructed a new investigation to be conducted, which would allow possible masterminds to be prosecuted, including former government officials. According to Delva, the investigation would allow testimony that has not been heard before to be presented.

A machete-wielding mob hacked Lindor to death on the morning of December 3, 2001. Lindor, news director for the local station Radio Echo 2000, hosted the political talk show “Dialogue.” He had received numerous threats from local authorities for inviting members of the 15-party opposition coalition Democratic Convergence to appear on his show, according to CPJ research. After Aristide launched a “zero tolerance” anti-crime campaign in June 2001, telling police officers that street criminals caught red-handed could be summarily punished without trial, Petit-Goâve Deputy Mayor Dumé Bony announced in public that the policy should be applied to Lindor.

The investigation into Lindor’s murder had stalled for almost six years, Delva told CPJ. However, it was set in motion again when members of the independent committee of journalists headed by Delva discovered a “missing” court file and forwarded it to the investigators handling the case in September. The four defendants were arrested in October.

In September, Haitian President René Préval met with a CPJ delegation in New York. Préval pledged his full support for the independent committee, stating that “freedom of the press is essential for the development of a democracy.”