Free Arnel Belizaire and All Political Prisoners

What will it take to have all political prisoners in Haiti freed? Starting with Arnel Belizaire, the well known former Depute of parliament in Haiti from 2011 to 2015, who has been in jail for nearly two years, and including all the young men and women languishing in prisons in all major towns in the country. All of them are incarcerated without trial because President of Haiti Jovenel Moise has incorporated the police and the justice system into his tool box to repress the population. Every time there is a demonstration the police arrest young men and throw them in jail. Unless the person arrested manages to catch public attention and get lawyers to work on his freedom, he will be thrown in a crowded cell in the police station or in the penitentiary. There also have been unconfirmed reports of young men being executed by police officers, and their bodies buried in unmarked graves. Heady stuff in troubled times.

Political prisoners are filling up jails in Haiti in most major towns, while kidnappers operate freely with no fear of police. Young men and women fill up jails in subhuman, horrible conditions, picked up by police officers after demonstrations and jailed under vague, trumped up accusations. Arnel Belizaire is facing more serious charges, as he is accused of distributing weapons to gangsters. Arnel is not a choir boy by any means, having been arrested a few times in the past for violations ranging from illegal possession of fire arms to trafficking in stolen vehicles, a charge he has vehemently denied. As a Depute in the Haitian lower chamber of parliament he became known as a troublemaker and a fierce opponent of former president Michel Martelly. On one occasion he challenged the police and freed workers of the state owned retirement fund, ONA, who were held hostage by a police unit in violation of their rights. Arnel Belizaire does not deserve to be held in inhuman conditions in a jail cell in Croix des Bouquets, where he is suffering from various ailments with no medical help provided. Arnel has not faced trial, and his lawyers have tried to have his case heard, with no result. So he is held in prison illegally, according to the constitution, after he was arrested in Jacmel, and charged with possession of an arsenal. The evidence was tainted because a judge did not observe and legalize the seizure. This happened almost two years ago and Belizaire has not been tried yet, a clear violation of the constitution. He is left to die of harsh treatment in prison.

Members of the opposition need to start demanding the release of former Depute Belizaire and of the large amount of young men and women jailed unjustly. The Haitian National Police is beginning to take a turn for the worse, as the force is used only to repress the population, stop all demonstrations, even when the people are asking for justice, and allow gangsters to rule neighborhoods. It is no wonder kidnapping is so widespread because criminals stash the victims in territory controlled by gangs where police cannot enter.

Victims of kidnappers prefer to pay ransom and keep quiet for the perpetrators usually wear police uniforms, and drive vehicles with official or state owned plates. They have advanced communication equipment and they sometimes stalk their victims for days, while planning the rapt. Nowadays, anyone can be a victim, especially if you come from the diaspora, so most compatriots are staying away from Haiti these days. People need to demand the freedom of all people held in jail unjustly and that the police chase criminals rather than repress the population.

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