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Seven years after Lindor murder convicted killers still at large

(RSF/IFEX) - Justice has still not been fully rendered in the case of Brignol Lindor, a young radio journalist who was murdered in a particularly barbaric manner in the southwestern town of Petit-Goâve seven years ago, despite the fact that two individuals implicated in his murder were given life sentences in December 2007, Reporters Without Borders said.

Seven other people who were convicted in absentia of his murder in January 2008 are still on the run, Reporters Without Borders pointed out, adding that it hoped the appointment of Lindor family lawyer Jean Joseph Exumé as justice minister on 7 November would bring complete closure to a case that had dragged on too long.

"The political will demonstrated by President René Préval's government has helped put an end to the scandal of a case in which there was complete impunity for six years. At the same time, there has been an overall improvement in press freedom in Haiti," Reporters Without Borders said.

"But the political and judicial authorities should not be satisfied with the trials of the past year, which left the fate of seven convicted killers in limbo and failed to shed light on the then municipal government's apparent implication," the press freedom organisation added.

A journalist with local Radio Echo 2000, Lindor was stoned and hacked to death on 3 December 2001 in Petit-Goâve by members of Domi Nan Bwa ("Sleep in the Woods"), a local armed group linked to Fanmi Lavalas, the party led by then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Four days before the murder, a press conference was held in Petit-Goâve by several local figures linked to Fanmi Lavalas, including Petit-Goâve mayor Emmanuel Antoine and his deputy, Bony Dumay, who launched into a violent verbal attack on the opposition Democratic Convergence coalition and Lindor, considered to be one of its allies. Another meeting was held three days later, on the eve of his murder, this time between municipal officials and members of Domi Nan Bwa.

One of Domi Nan Bwa's leaders, Joseph Céus Duverger, was attacked the next morning by presumed Democratic Convergence supporters. This incident was used as a pretext for the targeted reprisal against Lindor later in the day. Evidence of this comes from the fact that around 10 Domi Nan Bwa members were about to execute Democratic Convergence member Love Augustin at his home but when Lindor arrived on the scene, they let him go and seized Lindor.

Despite all the evidence, the indictment issued by Judge Fritzner Duclair on 16 September 2002 failed to bring charges against any of the presumed instigators of Lindor's murder.

After five years of inaction, the case was revived in 2007 when arrest warrants were issued for the persons named in the indictment. Four were arrested but only two of them were convicted and given life sentences - Joubert Saint-Juste and Jean-Rémy Démosthène. One of the other two, Simon Cétoute, 57, was acquitted because it turned out he had been arrested instead of his son, who had the same first name and who had recently died in the nearby town of Léogane.

The fourth defendant, Fritzner Doudoute, was mistaken at the time of his arrest for Fritznel Doudoute, and was not named in either the 2002 indictment or in the arrest warrant issued in 2007. Nonetheless, witnesses identified him in court as one of the people who participated in Lindor's murder. He remains in detention and is to be the subject of a new judicial investigation that could also target Dumay, the former deputy mayor, who was summoned to testify at the trial.

Fritznel Doudoute, also known as Lionel and Nènèl, was one the seven indicted Domi Nan Bwa members who were convicted in absentia on 23 January 2008 by Petit-Goâve chief judge Emmanuel Tataye, who also ordered the seizure of all their possessions and assets and the suspension of their civil and political rights. The other six were Maxi Zéphyr, Bernard Désamour, Tyrésias, also known as Téré, Fritznel Duvergé, Mackenzi and Belony Colin.

Updates the Lindor case:

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