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Two men get life for journalist Jacques Roche's murder

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF welcomes the life sentences handed down by a Port-au-Prince court on 30 August 2007 against two men, Alby Joseph and Chéry Beaubrun, for the abduction and murder of Jacques Roche, the head of the "Le Matin" newspaper's arts and culture pages. Roche was kidnapped on 10 July 2005 and found dead four days later.

Joseph, 22, a gang member based in the Port-au-Prince slum district of Solino, was found guilty of killing Roche. Beaubrun was found guilty of receiving money to guard him while he was held hostage. They were sentenced to forced labour for life under a May 2005 decree.

Their conviction came 20 days after an independent commission to support investigations into murders of journalists was created on the initiative of President René Préval and SOS Journalistes, a non-governmental organisation. The commission was installed in the presence of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's spokesperson, Michèle Montas, who is the widow of Jean Dominique, a radio journalists murdered in April 2000. Dominique's killers have not been caught (see IFEX alerts of 16 August and 4 April 2007, 3 April 2006, 12 October and 6 April 2005, and others).

"We are relieved that justice has finally been rendered in the Roche case," RSF said. "This conviction and the creation of the commission on 10 August are positive signs of a desire by the political and judicial authorities to start combatting impunity. The other participants in Roche's abduction who are still at large must also be brought to trial."

An arts and culture columnist and Creole-language poet, Roche was abducted as he was driving through the Nazon district of Port-au-Prince. Despite intense negotiations with the family, in which the kidnappers demanded a ransom of US$250,000, his handcuffed body was finally found four days later, bearing the marks of torture and bullet wounds.

Joseph named three other persons, former Solino gang boss François "Bibi" Daniel, Dérosiers "Tiyabout" Becker and someone identified only as "Gaetan" as accomplices in Roche's abduction and murder. All three are currently detained for possession of firearms.

Gérard Jean Juste, a Catholic priest and close political ally of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was also a suspect. He was arrested on 22 July 2005 but was eventually released for health reasons and was allowed to travel to the United States to receive treatment. He returned to Haiti at the start of August 2007. Several other suspects were arrested in August 2005 but have not yet been tried.

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