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Murder suspects in Haiti are waiting in limbo, with relatives left in the dark

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The legal limbo, made more uncertain by a “a state of siege ” invoked after the July 7 assassination, it has left human rights groups concerned about the lack of due process for the detainees and relatives of the men, who come from Haiti, Colombia and the United States, desperate for details.

In recent weeks a Colombian “honorary consul” has been appointed in Haiti, but senior Bogota officials have delayed a visit to the country at the request of the government.

And the only information gathered so far by the family of Christian Emmanuel Sanon, the Haitian-American doctor who according to police orchestrated the murder, is that the 63-year-old is still in good health after U.S. State Department officials visited him earlier. this month.

“He doesn’t look like he’s been beaten or anything, he looks like he’s in good health, but they’ve only seen him once,” said Steven Bross, a friend of Sanon’s who has spoken to his family in Florida.

Legal process rights for prisoners have long been weak in Haiti, where years of autocratic leadership have eroded controls over more family power in developed countries.

As the authorities there urgently seek an explanation for the shocking and shameful murder, the capabilities of the Haitian police have further increased.

The vague provisions of the emergency order, which expires this week, “seem to justify anything done in the context of the investigation,” said Brian Concannon, a board member of the Institute for Justice and Democracy. in Haiti.

None of the men have made public appearances before a judge.

Nor was it clear that any legal counsel had been provided. Under Haitian law, inmates can receive a court-appointed attorney, though they are not normally made available until late in a case, Concannon said.

Asked repeatedly about whether the suspects have access to legal representation, Haitian National Police spokeswoman Marie Michele Vernier said only that the men were in contact with their respective embassies.

Grid abuse is common in Haiti, even under regular circumstances, although so far no reports of physical abuse of men have appeared.

“Interrogative torture is routine in the execution of mill cases, so I hope there is an extremely high probability in this case, where the police are under a lot of pressure,” Concannon said.

Twenty-six men have been arrested since the murder, Vernier told CNN Wednesday, including 18 Colombians, five Haitians and three U.S. citizens.

Their supposed roles vary, but most are not believed to be high-level architects of the plot. A number of Haitian police have also been arrested in an independent administrative investigation, according to Haitian authorities.

Haitian police say Sanon, who had mounted a political incursion in recent months, hired Colombians and other men as “mercenaries” to try to seize power in the country.

The Colombians are believed to have operated in two groups: a larger group that thought they were hired as private security for Sanon and a smaller group that knew a “criminal” target and knew the larger operation was a cover-up. . President Ivan Duque said last week.

He two other Haitian-Americans they are said to have been hired as translators in custody.
The sister of the former Colombian soldier responds to the accusations of murder in Haiti

Citing privacy issues, a U.S. State Department official declined to confirm any consular visits with detained U.S. citizens, but said the agency usually works to provide assistance to detained Americans in detention. ‘foreigner.

In Florida, Sanon’s family believes he is setting up as a scapegoat, according to Bross, the family’s friend.

The doctor had recently announced plans to seek the Haitian presidency in a future government and had hired Colombians and other men from a Florida company as security in Haiti, according to a company that arranged funding for the effort.

Sanon’s family believes the need for security was legitimate, Bross said. Sanon had publicly criticized the now-assassinated president of the country and believed it would be unsafe in the country, where political violence is rampant, Bross said.

Sanon has denied investigators any knowledge of the operation and has insisted on his innocence, CNN reported.

On Sunday, Colombian consular officials are expected to travel to Port-au-Prince after the Haitian government asked them to delay their visit until the assassinated president’s funeral, which is Friday.

Officials will meet with detainees and help them find local legal representation, the country’s foreign minister said.

Several relatives of Colombians who spoke to CNN said they are still in the dark about the condition of the men.

“We are desperate. Every day for me is hell,” said the wife of one of the men arrested by text message.

The woman, who requested anonymity because the case is sensitive, has asked the Red Cross to visit her husband, according to a letter she shared with CNN.

“Our family is unaware of their physical, psychological and legal status. We are suffering and need to have some kind of telephone or virtual communication with the help of the Red Cross because their young children and family are emotionally affected by this sad situation. , “the woman wrote.

Earlier Wednesday, the men’s families met with a Foreign Ministry office official but did not leave without further details on the status of their relatives.

“As of this moment, we know absolutely nothing about how they are doing and how they are being treated. We are still in the same suffering,” said Milena Africano, the detainees’ husband after the meeting.

The official told the families that they could give packages to the consular mission to deliver to the men.

In the list of items that can be sent: two white shirts, a pair of sandals and a small supply of toiletries.

CNN’s Natalie Gallon reported from Port-au-Prince, Stefano Pozzebon of Bogota and David Shortell of Miami.

Reports provided by CNN’s Caitlin Hu, Matt Rivers and Etant Dupain in Port-au-Prince.

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