Amnesty: Haiti human rights activist threatened

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Associated Press

Posted on April 15, 2014 at 6:05 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 16 at 1:04 AM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A leading human rights activist in Haiti has been threatened for his work, Amnesty International said Tuesday, marking the latest documented case of attacks or threats against watchdog groups in the Caribbean nation.

Pierre Esperance received a menacing letter at his organization's office in the Haitian capital earlier this month, along with a bullet, according to a statement from Amnesty.

The letter accused Esperance, executive director of the National Human Rights Defense Network, of publishing false reports aimed at destabilizing President Michel Martelly's government.

It also mentioned an earlier attack on Esperance when he survived bullet wounds to the shoulder and knee while driving his car.

"In 99 we missed you, this time you won't escape it, stop speaking," the letter said, according to Amnesty.

A complaint was lodged with the public prosecutor, and judicial police are believed to have opened an investigation, Amnesty said.

Esperance and his group have been actively publishing reports that range from the government's alleged ties to drug traffickers to the sluggish case involving Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, the former dictator who faces charges on human rights abuses and embezzlement.

The alleged threat against Esperance is the latest aimed at Haiti's human rights advocates over recent months.

"Those who denounce corruption and impunity can be victims at any time," Esperance said by telephone.

Some attorneys have reported being followed or receiving menacing phone messages. One lawyer working on a corruption case was locked up overnight by police who said he was detained on unrelated charges.

In February, an activist and his wife were gunned down in Port-au-Prince, and his colleagues said the slaying was for his work. The case is still under investigation.

Martelly's administration has repeatedly said it won't tolerate corruption.

Frustration with the government boiled over into the streets Tuesday when about a thousand people demonstrated in the capital to call for the departure of Martelly for alleged corruption and waste. Young men burned tires and debris along the route.

The demonstration culminated near the grounds of the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, when police fired tear gas canisters and rifles in the air to disperse the crowd. Protesters retaliated by throwing rocks.

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