Nine people have been charged in the 2000 killing of one of Haiti's most renowned journalists, marking a major step forward in a high-profile case that has dragged on for years.
A judge's report, read aloud in the Court of Appeal, alleged that former senator Mirlande Liberus Pavert was the intellectual author of the slaying of radio journalist Jean Dominique. Liberus Pavert was a member of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Family Lavalas party while she served as senator in the early 2000s.
Also charged was Annette Auguste, a well-known folk singer otherwise known as So Anne. She was a Lavalas activist at that time.
Gabriel Harold Severe, a former deputy mayor of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince; Franco Camille, a onetime powerful Lavalas activist; and Dimsley Milien, the alleged hit man, were also charged.
None of them could be reached for comment. No arrests have been made.
The appellate court must now either accept or reject the judge's report, which was submitted on Friday.
"I think it's a positive step to the extent that we've been working on this for almost 14 years," Dominique's widow, Michele Montas, said by telephone from her home in New York. She declined to comment further because she hadn't seen the judge's findings.
Dominique, an agronomist-turned-radio commentator, and his security guard were gunned down on April 3, 2000, in the courtyard of the journalist's radio station, Radio Haiti Inter.
The assassination of Dominique — affectionately known as "Jean Do" — shocked this poor country of 10 million people where a high illiteracy rate keeps radio popular. He had gone into exile under earlier regimes but enjoyed proximity to power before his death, counting former presidents Rene Preval and Aristide as close friends.
Dominique wasn't afraid to name names in his early-morning broadcasts, aired in Creole instead of elite French, and was revered as much as he was reviled.
He was the subject of a 2003 documentary directed by Jonathan Demme, "The Agronomist."
However, Dominique and Aristide had a widely reported falling out that was attributed to a tense interview on the radio station. Dominique had voiced disappointment with Aristide and allegedly corrupt practices associated with his Family Lavalas party.
The politically sensitive nature of the case helped drag it out for years, with judges coming and going, and one fleeing Haiti for his safety. One suspect mysteriously died in the hospital and his body disappeared from the morgue.
Haitian press freedom advocate Guyler Delva expressed mixed feelings about the new report.
"The judge has gone farther than any others have but he didn't go as far as he could have," said Delva, who runs a committee that investigates the cases of murdered journalists. "They indicted the person who received the order but not the mastermind. This doesn't make sense."
The mastermind, he said, was Aristide based on witness testimony to which he said he's been privy.
Family Lavalas spokesman Maryse Narcisse declined to comment.
Aristide's U.S. attorney, Ira Kurzban, said he couldn't comment in detail without seeing the report and its evidence but added that he had been involved in the case early on and saw no evidence of Family Lavalas members being involved.
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