Mon | Mar 4, 2024

Authorities in Haiti hold former rebel leader Guy Philippe after the US repatriated him

Published:Friday | December 1, 2023 | 7:43 PM
Guy Philippe smiles during an interview in Pestel, Haiti, August 24, 2016. Philippe returned to Haiti on Thursday, November 30, 2023, after the US government deported him. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery, File)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Authorities in Haiti held former rebel leader Guy Philippe on Friday at a police station where he remained a day after the United States repatriated him to Haiti, his lawyer said.

Philippe is a convicted money launderer who played a key role in the 2004 rebellion against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and also was accused of masterminding attacks on police stations and other targets.

Philippe has an outstanding warrant stemming from a 2016 fatal attack on a police station in the southern coastal city of Les Cayes, police officials told The Associated Press on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Philippe was being held under observation, that usually lasts 48 hours, but he has not been charged and no hearing has been held, attorney Jean Joseph Louicher told reporters gathered outside the police station.

"Why can't my client recover his freedom to be with his family?" Louicher said, adding that authorities only told him they did not yet have any orders to release Philippe.

Louicher said Philippe is being held in a cell by himself and was given food, water and a mattress.

The former rebel leader once served as police chief for the northern coastal city of Cap-Haitien and had been recently elected to Haiti's Senate when local authorities arrested him in Haiti in January 2017 while he participated in a live radio talk show.

He was extradited to the US, where he was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to a money laundering charge. Authorities had said he used his high-ranking position within Haiti's National Police to provide protection for drug shipments in exchange for up to $3.5 million in bribes.

Philippe, who has stated in recent interviews that he intends to be involved in his country's affairs, arrived back in Haiti as it struggles with widespread gang violence and deepening political instability.

Guerline Jozef, founder of the US-based community organisation Haitian Bridge Alliance, questioned why Philippe was flown to his homeland during a time of upheaval and accused the US government in a statement Friday of being complicit "in contributing to the ongoing destabilisation" of Haiti.

A spokesperson for the US Department of Homeland Security referred questions to the US Department of State, which said in a brief statement that the US "continues to support efforts that foster security conditions conducive for holding free and fair elections and maintaining long-term stability in Haiti."

"The US government prosecuted and convicted Mr Philippe for his crimes, and he has completed his sentence," a spokesperson for the Department of State said. "There is no longer any basis for Mr Philippe to remain in the United States."

Follow The Gleaner on X and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us at onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com or editors@gleanerjm.com.