Hundreds March to Demand Political Prisoners’ Release

by Thomas
Péralte and Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
On Oct. 30,
hundreds of demonstrators marched from downtown Port-au-Prince to Carrefour to
demand the release of Haitian grassroots opposition leaders Biron Odigé and
Rony Timothée, who were arrested in a massive Oct. 26 demonstration.
            The marchers also called for the
release of dozens of other political prisoners languishing in jails throughout
Haiti including Aux Cayes, Petit Goâve, Jacmel, Cap Haïtien, and
            Just before the march, authorities
announced that Mr. Odigé had been transferred to the new prison in
Croix-des-Bouquets while Mr. Rony was sent to the jail in Arcahaie, 20 and 50
kilometers north of the capital respectively.
            The two leaders head the Patriotic
Front for Respect of the Constitution (FOPARC), one of the principal grassroots
groups organizing demonstrations against the Martelly regime over the past
three years.
            Police arrested about 21 other
demonstrators in protests on Oct. 17 and 26.
            When the Oct. 30 protestors arrived
in Martissant, pro-regime goons threw rocks, almost precipitating a
confrontation, but police intervened. Another confrontation nearly occurred
with a small group of regime partisans near the Omega Prison in Carrefour,
where the march ended. However, the demonstration finished without serious
            On its 18th anniversary
on Nov. 3, the Fanmi Lavalas Political Organization called for the release of
all political prisoners.
            “The Haitian justice system is
sick,” said Mirlande Manigat, leader of the Assembly of Progressive National
Democrats (RDNP), who lost to Martelly in the Mar. 20, 2011 presidential race.
“The country is sick. The arrest of Biron Odigé and Rony Timothée, two very
well-known opposition political activists, further illustrates how Haitian
justice is functioning at a minimum. The treatment of these militants is
            The Conference of Haitian Pastors
(COPAH), in a press release signed by the Rev. Ernst Pierre Vincent, also
denounced the arrests of opposition leaders and demonstrators, and called on
President Martelly to “to respect the rules of democracy.”
            The peasant organization Tet Kole Ti
Peyizan Ayisyen (Heads Together of Small Haitian Peasants) also condemned the
regime’s crackdown on the opposition and the warned against the “establishment
of a dictatorship,” especially if Parliament is allowed to expire on Jan. 12,
2015 and President Martelly begins ruling by decree.
            During the demonstration, Thomas
Shannon, the U.S. State Department’s Haiti point man, and U.S. Ambassador to
Haiti Pamela White led a U.S. delegation to meet with Haitian Senators,
political party leaders, and Haitian government officials.
            “The U.S. government is concerned
with the deteriorating political situation in Haiti,” said Sen. John Joel

            While on a state visit to France,
President Martelly was asked about the growing anti-government demonstrations
in Haiti in recent weeks and the wave of arrests. “I’m not aware that
there are any political prisoners,” Martelly responded. “I am aware that
there are demonstrations, that there are people protesting and demonstrating.”