Haiti's Justice Minister denies allegations deceased judge came under political pressure

Published on by Joseph Guyler Delva (author)

The Haitian Justice Minister denied on Monday that the country's highest political authorities attended a meeting with a high-profile judge during which the now deceased magistrate would have come under intense political pressure to give up a case involving the presidential family.

Jean Renel Sanon rejected allegations that Haitian President Michel Martelly, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and himself, among other personalities, had participated on Thursday in a meeting with judge Jean Serge Joseph at the office of former Justice Minister, Jean Gary Lissade, also an adviser to the President.

"President Martelly, Prime Minister Lamothe and myself never attended such meeting and we had never pressured the judge to do anything," Justice Minister Sanon told HCNN on Monday. "Such allegations are totally false," he said.

Judge Joseph, who died on Saturday of a stroke, was handling a case involving first Lady Sophia Martelly and the president's elder son, Olivier Martelly, accused of alleged misappropriation of public funds, accusations repeatedly denied by the presidential family.

The accusations were brought by Newton Louis Saint-Juste and Andre Michel, two lawyers linked to political parties fiercely opposed to the current administration. Andre Michel referred to the judge's death as an assassination orchestrated by the highest political authorities.

On July 2, the judge issued a ruling calling on President Martelly, who holds the legal power to authorize the appearance of high ranking State functionaries before court judges, to okay the hearing of Prime Minister Lamothe and other ministers as witnesses.

The judge's ruling was appealed by the capital's prosecutor for alleged violations of legal procedures and a decision by higher court's judges was still pending.

A lawyer, close to the deceased judge, Samuel Madistin, said the late magistrate had told him about death threats and pressure he received during a meeting on Thursday with President Martelly, Prime Minister Lamothe and Justice Minister Jean Renel Sanon.

"The Judge told me before his death that he had a meeting at Mr. Lissade's office with President Martelly, Prime Minister Lamothe who pressured him," reported Madistin.

"He told me his life was threatened and they gave him an ultimatum that he had to hold a session on Tuesday in order to put an end to the case," Madistin, an outspoken and critical voice of the government's policies, told a private station in the Haitian capital.

Lawyer Gary Lissade designated as the alleged host of the supposed meeting issued a communiqué to deny having hosted such discussions.

"I declare that the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister never attended any meeting at my office with judge Jean Serge Joseph or with any other judicial authority," read the communiqué that deplores the utilization of the judge's death for political reasons.

Justice Minister Sanon claim that those bringing these accusations have hidden political motives and ensure that the current government is committed to democracy and the rule of law.

"That's why we have taken unprecedented steps to ensure that judges enjoy maximum independence in the accomplishment of their task," Sanon said. " We did so to an extent never seen before in the history of this country and we'll continue on the same path," he added.

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