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Haiti rebel to surrender, lawyer says

Louis Jodel Chamblain, a former death squad chief who helped drive Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile, will surrender Thursday, his lawyer said Wednesday.
/ Source: Reuters

A former death squad chief who helped lead a bloody rebellion that drove Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile will surrender to police Thursday, his lawyer said Wednesday.

The rebel leader, Louis Jodel Chamblain, who was convicted in absentia in 1995 of the murder of a prominent businessman, will put himself in the hands of the Haitian justice system, his attorney, Stanley Gaston, told reporters after a meeting with police officials.

At his side, Chamblain said: “My decision is made, and tomorrow I will explain it.”

Human rights groups had expressed concern that a convicted killer and human rights abuser could walk Haiti’s streets freely, as Chamblain has done since he joined the rebellion that pushed Aristide out of power Feb. 29.

Chamblain signed autographs for admirers in the capital, Port-au-Prince, in the chaotic days after Aristide’s government collapsed, when armed gangs ruled and police were nowhere to be seen.

Chamblain, an army officer accused of heading death squads during the last years of the Duvalier family dictatorship in the 1980s, helped form the Front for the Advancement of Progress of the Haitian People, or FRAPH, after a military junta ousted Aristide in 1991 during his first presidency.

FRAPH was blamed for 3,000 deaths in the three years Aristide was in exile.

In 1995, Chamblain was convicted of the 1993 murder of Antoine Izmery, an Aristide supporter who was dragged from a church, forced to kneel and shot in the head.

Chamblain returned from exile in the neighboring Dominican Republic in February, shortly after armed gangs and former soldiers began an uprising in northern Haiti. He helped lead the rebel forces that ultimately forced Aristide to flee.

Extensive negotiations
The pledge to give himself up came after a meeting among rebel leaders, national Police Chief Leonce Charles, Justice Minister Bernard Gousse and representatives of the multinational force that was sent to Haiti to provide security.

Charles said police had formulated a plan to take Chamblain into custody. He said he was pleased that the surrender would avoid any possible violence from the armed rebels.

“Chamblain will go back to where he should be,” meaning prison, Charles said. “It’s up to the justice system to decide this case.”

Wynter Etienne, a leader of the rebels in Gonaives, the cradle of the rebellion, said Jean Pierre Baptiste, another notorious FRAPH member better known by his alias, Jean Tatoune, would also surrender to police. He did not say when.

Tatoune was convicted in the 1994 Raboteau massacre, when FRAPH forces went on a rampage in a seaside slum in Gonaives and killed more than two dozen people.